Fetuses found at funeral home were university collection
POCATELLO, Idaho (AP) — Police say the remains of roughly 50 fetuses found at a Pocatello, Idaho, funeral home were part of a biological collection that Idaho State University provided to the funeral home for cremation in 2017.
The fetuses and at least 12 other decomposing bodies were discovered at the Downard Funeral Home after a state health inspector alerted police. Investigators have been working to identify the remains.
The business was previously in charge of donating cadavers to Idaho State University for scientific study, but the relationship ended last year after the university had stopped receiving donations for a time. On Thursday, ISU spokesperson Stuart Summers said in a statement that the fetuses recovered from Downard Funeral Home were part of a decades-old biology collection showing fetal development, and that the collection had been brought to the funeral home for cremation four years ago, the Idaho State Journal reported.
The university decided to have the collection cremated after the Idaho Legislature passed a law in 2016 banning public institutions from using fetal or embryonic tissue or stem cells for research or study. The majority of the collection had been donated to ISU before 1981, Summers said.
Police have identified about half of the bodies found at the home, but are asking for the public’s help identifying the rest of them.
The sister of one woman whose remains were found at the funeral home said she felt betrayed and heartbroken after learning her sister was never cremated.
Eva Bode told EastIdahoNews.com that her sister, Charlotte Ann Mygrant, died in August after suffering a heart attack while incarcerated at the Pocatello Women’s Correctional Center. Bode lives in Virginia, so when the Portneuf Medical Center called to ask her where she wanted her sister’s body sent, Bode went with the hospital’s recommendation.
Bode spoke with Downard Funeral Home owner Lance Peck that day, and said he assured her that her sister’s wishes to be cremated would be fulfilled and that the ashes would be mailed to her. But when she later called to find out when her sister’s ashes would be arriving in Virginia, she said Bode first said he needed to check with the local post office, and later didn’t return her calls.
She discovered the investigation last week when she went online to look for an alternate phone number for Peck.
“This is stuff you only see on TV. I was very upset because Lance made me feel like he was really genuine, caring and really taking care of this,” Bode says. “To find this out on the internet was unbelievable.”
A phone number for Peck could not be found and calls to the funeral home went unanswered Friday.