TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) — The owner of a funeral home where 11 bodies were found in various states of decay, some in a damp garage, was sentenced Monday to spend a week in jail and give up his funeral license.
Robert Tate Jr. faced relatives of the deceased and apologized, but he didn’t explain why he left the bodies in what the state funeral board said was a condition “that would outrage reasonable family and community sensibilities.”
“My prayer is that each of the families harmed can find closure,” Tate said before he was sentenced.
In late May, authorities removed the 11 bodies, including 10 adults and a premature infant, most of which were stored in cremation boxes and body bags. At least one had been there about four months, officials said.
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The niece of one man who was found with mold on his body said that Tate treated her uncle’s remains like they were garbage.
“It was something you would expect to see in a horror movie,” Tiffany Feahr said before the sentencing.
Her uncle, Fred Winkelman, died last April and was supposed to be cremated, she said. The family became suspicious after Tate didn’t turn over his remains and demanded to see the body, she said.
Her uncle, she said, was covered with a sheet, unshaven and not clean. “We never want someone to experience something so horrific,” Feahr said.
The family called state inspectors right away. Investigators said Tate put dryer sheets near the bodies to mask the smell.
Prosecutors did not recommend jail time for Tate, but Lucas County Judge Ruth Ann Franks said he needed time to consider what he had done, noting that he earlier blamed delays in cremation on physicians failing to provide death certificates in a timely manner.
The condition of the bodies “violated every sense of decency society expects of you, Mr. Tate,” the judge said.
She ordered Tate to spend five years on probation and perform community service.
Tate, who earlier pleaded no contest to abuse-of-corpse charges, also agreed to never again work for a funeral home and pay restitution to two families because he kept the remains of two people in an area without air conditioning or refrigeration.
Defense attorney, Mark Geudtner, said that dozens of Tate’s former clients along with preachers in the city wrote letters of support. He said that Tate would often provide free services for those who could afford them, including the family of an infant killed in a drive-by shooting a few years ago.