The owner of a former Sun Valley funeral home was charged with 11 misdemeanor charges for alleged failure to properly bury the remains of 11 people, including infants, who were found in various stages of decay and mummification, the Los Angeles City Attorney announced Friday.
“When a loved one passes away ... it's incredibly painful. Families are devastated when we lose a loved one. And we at the barest minimum expect the funeral home to which our loved one's remains have been sent to treat our family member with decency and dignity at this last moment,'' City Attorney Mike Feuer said.
His office filed 22 criminal misdemeanor charges against Mark B. Allen, who owned Mark B. Allen Mortuary and Cremation Services, Inc., which is now closed. Feuer said family members filed complaints about the funeral home, and officials with the State Bureau of Consumer Affairs' Cemetery and Funeral Bureau launched an investigation, along with the Los Angeles Police Department and the coroner's office.
Officials went to the location on two occasions over the course of a year and found the remains of 11 people that they allege did not receive proper care.
“The odor from inside the facility was so great that officials could detect it outside the facility,'' Feuer said. "How would you feel if that was your loved one?"
Allen was charged for each body with violating two sections of the California Health and Safety Code. The city attorney said that the misdemeanor charges are “sufficiently severe” that for each of the 11 people's remains, there's a potential for a year in jail and $10,000 in fines. The maximum penalty for Allen would be up to $110,000 and up to 11 years in jail.
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Information about Allen's representation was not immediately available and a working phone number for him could not be found.
“We're fighting to get justice for these families in this incredibly sad and shocking situation,” said Feuer. “Eleven people died, including very young children, and the funeral director hired to compassionately prepare the bodies for burial allegedly just let them rot, with neither the decency nor the dignity that all our loved ones deserve. Their deaths are one tragedy, and this alleged monstrous mistreatment is a second tragedy.”
Allen is scheduled to be arraigned June 22 in a downtown Los Angeles Courtroom.
Funeral homes that mistreat human remains have made headlines for years. Funeral home regulations vary across the U.S., with some states requiring annual inspections and several requiring no inspections at all, according to The Associated Press.
In one of the most extreme cases, more than 330 decaying corpses were found in 2002 in the Tri-State Crematory near the tiny community of Noble, about 100 miles (161 kilometers) northwest of Atlanta. The former operator pleaded guilty to nearly 800 criminal charges related to fraud and corpse abuse after the bodies were found.
In Los Angeles, authorities opened an investigation into the Mark B. Allen Mortuary and Cremations Services Inc., after receiving complaints from families. The mortuary, owned by Mark B. Allen, is now closed and phone numbers listed for the business were disconnected.
The Associated Press and City News Service contributed to this report.