Detroit Police made a gruesome discovery on Friday when they found the bodies of 11 babies hidden beyond the ceiling of a building formerly operated as a funeral home.
The police department received an anonymous letter tipping them off to the bodies, which were stashed beyond a faux ceiling between the first and second floors, Detroit Free Press reported Sunday.
Two of bodies were found in a trash bag inside a casket, while nine were found in a cardboard box. Police used a cadaver search dog to sweep the building and ensure no other bodies were present.
UPDATE: This is the ceiling where the bodies of 11 infants and stillborns were found at the former Cantrell Funeral Home in Detroit.
Investigators are now working to identify the remains.
— WXYZ Detroit (@wxyzdetroit) October 13, 2018
Police were unclear how long the bodies had been there, or specific ages of the infants.
The building was the former site of Cantrell Funeral Home, which state authorities shut down in April after discovering the operation had committed multiple state law violations.
“The babies are at the medical examiner’s office,” said Lisa Croff, spokeswoman for Wayne County Medical Examiner’s Office. “We have (very) little to go on sans [without] cooperation from the funeral home owners.”
The funeral home’s owner, Raymond Cantrell II, had inherited the company upon the death of his father in 2016. The company’s website claims, “Our father, Raymond E. Cantrell, founder of Cantrell Funeral Home in Detroit, has provided excellent service for over 50 years. As the next generation of funeral directors, our goal is to continue in his footprints of quality, family-oriented and customer-focused funeral service.”
However, the operation was shut down in April after discovering violations, such as storage of embalmed bodies in a garage, holding deteriorating bodies for months before cremation, and failing to deposit customers’ prepayments.
State officials had shut the funeral home down in April over numerous issues including improperly stored bodies covered in mold, unsanitary conditions and financial violations. https://t.co/nBR9ILZqnK
— HuffPost (@HuffPost) October 15, 2018
Investigators determined the funeral home operators had committed “fraud, deceit, dishonesty, incompetence and gross negligence in the practice of mortuary science,” according to Detroit Free Press. Regulators suspended the licenses of the funeral home and the manager.
The building was purchased last month by Naveed Syed, the CEO of Quality Behavioral Health, who planned for the building to be renovated to a community center.
“I’m not surprised about the news (of the discovery of the bodies),” Syed told Detroit Free Press on Saturday. “These people, the former owners, they were dirty, pitiful people up to no good.”
Detroit Police Lt. Brian Bowser said, “We do have names for some of the remains and we’re going to try to contact the families.”
Bowser added that he was disturbed by “the callousness” of those responsible for stashing the infants’ bodies in the ceiling. “Obviously, it was either an employee or someone who had knowledge” of the operation, he said.
“We will use the evidence gathered today to add to our open investigation and will continue to work with local law enforcement as this case proceeds,” said Jason Moon, communications director for the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs.
Cantrell II spoke to Detroit’s Local 4 News and said he was unaware of the bodies, and it was not something he had instructed employees to do.
“On behalf of my family I’m really sorry that it happened and totally appalled. The fact it occurred. I’m just thanking God it wasn’t something I had any involvement in,” he said.