The owners of an Arkansas funeral home that was shut down by state regulators after decomposing bodies were found on the premises have reached a settlement with the state that bars them from operating any funeral care business in the future and requires restitution be paid to affected families.
Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, who filed a lawsuit against Arkansas Funeral Care last year, said in a statement Tuesday that her office received multiple complaints from families, including that the business failed to cremate remains and that it left bodies unrefrigerated without being embalmed.
More than two dozen decaying bodies were found improperly stored at the Jacksonville business during a January 2015 inspection by the state Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors prompted by a complaint of a former worker.
The father and son who controlled the company, LeRoy Wood and Rodney Jarrett Wood, were allowed to shift criminal liability to their company, which was subsequently fined $50,000 by a judge. A separate $10,000 fine was also levied. A jury later acquitted a funeral director at the facility who had faced eight counts of abuse of corpse.
Rutledge said the settlement bars the former owners from operating in the funeral care business in Arkansas and orders them to pay restitution to families who have not yet received compensation through private suits or through previous orders from the Embalmers and Funeral Directors Board. The total amount of restitution to be paid wasn't immediately clear.
The statement noted that the funeral home's failure to take care of the bodies prevented some families from having open-casket funerals, and in one case, a veteran's body was not cremated in time for his memorial service.
“Our loved ones deserve to be treated with the utmost dignity and respect,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “Regrettably, Arkansas Funeral Care ignored this responsibility and egregiously violated the trust of Arkansans."
Read Wednesday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.
Reporter John Lynch contributed to this story.