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Carlinville funeral home investigation prompts legislative response

Sen. Doris Turner
Sen. Doris Turner

The effort would place additional protocols on the handling of human remains. It follows an investigation of the Heinz Funeral Home and Family Care Cremations in Carlinville. Numerous families reported receiving the wrong cremated remains of loved ones from the home.

The state has revoked the license of owner Albert Heinz. The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation took action based on several findings:

· Violation of Regulations (vital records non-compliance),
· Professional incompetence or untrustworthiness in funeral practice,
· Taking undue advantage of clients amounting to perpetration of fraud,
· Performing any act or practice that violates funeral regulations,
· Unprofessional conduct and charging for professional services not rendered.

Heinz has not responded to requests for comment. A criminal investigation continues.

Sen. Doris Turner (D, Springfield) is sponsor of the measure to require “chain of custody documentation” that will establish the continuous location and control of remains. That would include a list of each provider who came in contact with the body, a list of each service performed with location and date and the signature of the person who performs the final disposition.

“When we lose a loved one, we expect a funeral home to respect the remains of our friends and family,” said Turner (D-Springfield). “We are talking about a person who has loved ones and a story of their own. It is vital that we ensure no family has to receive the dreaded call that the remains they received belong to someone else. This has become a nationwide issue that needs to be addressed.”

Turner called it an effort to reestablish integrity and trust in the death care industry.

Sangamon County Coroner Jim Allmon said he first became aware of problems with the Carlinville home after being contacted by a local hospital with a body in its morgue for more than a month. The family had contracted with Heinz to have the body collected and cremated, he said.

When Allmon’s office reached out to the family, he was informed they had received cremains they believed belonged to their loved one. They were unaware that their family member was still housed in the morgue.

“Since the start of this investigation, we have removed or recovered over 40 sets of cremains from Heinz Funeral Home, some of which were not labeled at all,” he said in October. “To date, the Coroner’s Office has received dozens more sets of cremains from families that were given the wrong cremains.”

A visit to the funeral home also led to the discovery of three individuals in what was said to be “an advanced state of decomposition.”

Allmon supports the legislation.

“It will help assure the proper identification and treatment of someone after death,” said Sangamon County Coroner Jim Allmon. “This will also help prevent the victimization of families who are grieving the loss of someone they love, all while giving the deceased the dignity they deserve.”

The bill could be considered in the spring legislative session.

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