It’s been nearly four years since Rachel Brown and Larry David donated the remains of their daughter, Alayah in December 2014.
They’re still trying to find how out what happened to her.
Now they are plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed earlier this year that may help explain how the remains of 63 unborn babies were discovered by police Friday in boxes and freezers at Perry Funeral Home at Warren and Trumbull on Detroit’s west side.
The number is expected to be significantly higher.
“Any loss is a hard loss,” said Peter Parks, an attorney representing the couple in the lawsuit against the funeral home and several other entities. “But to lose a child you carried a full-term is exceptionally tough, especially knowing their body didn’t go where you think it did.”
The disturbing find at the Perry Funeral Home occurred one week after the remains of 10 fetuses and one infant were found in the ceiling of Cantrell Funeral Home on Detroit’s east side. Friday’s raid at the Perry home came after Detroit homicide detectives also raided QA Cantrell Funeral Home in Eastpointe to investigate a potential connection with the fetuses found in the ceiling of Cantrell Funeral Home in Detroit.
Parks said up to 200 more bodies may be found to be in improper possession of Perry Funeral Home.
State regulators shuttered the business amid a widening investigation of alleged improprieties at local funeral homes. And Detroit Police Chief James Craig said that law-enforcement agencies are considering forming a task force to target improper storage of remains and fraud in the area.
“I’ve never seen anything (like this) in my 41 and a half years” as a police officer, Craig said, at a news conference on Friday, adding: “It’s disturbing, but we will get to the bottom of this.”
Brown’s and Davis’ lawsuit against Perry Funeral Home alleges it stored the remains of stillborn and live birth babies in the Wayne State University School of Mortuary Science morgue for up to three years without trying to notify parents, some of whom wanted to donate the bodies for medical research. It also alleges the funeral home may have fraudulently billed Medicaid, as well as the Detroit Medical Center, for burials it never performed.
Parks said Alayah’s remains were in the basement morgue of the Detroit Medical Center’s Harper/Hutzel Hospital for months and were never transferred to the Wayne State University School of Medicine as planned. The couple still doesn’t know where Alayah’s remains are.
“I really can’t explain how these remains didn’t make it to the medical school,” Parks said.
He said Perry Funeral Home did not keep records of the 37 fetuses from DMC, and the next time they were accounted for was Aug. 7, 2015, when the WSU Department of Mortuary Science accepted the remains from the funeral home. A Perry Funeral Home staff member logged the transaction using Wayne State log books, Parks said.
Inspectors for the State of Michigan’s Corporations, Securities & Commercial Licensing Bureau said in a statement they had found “heinous conditions and negligent conduct” at the Perry Funeral Home, including numerous failures to certify death certificates and obtain proper permits for burial.