Court: Stacking bodies at Arizona funeral homes punishable

October 16, 2019

PHOENIX (AP) — A Mesa funeral home owner who fought a punishment from state industry regulators for stacking containers of remains is ending her legal fight.

Marc Harris, Arizona’s assistant attorney general, informed the Arizona State Board of Funeral Directors and Embalmers at a meeting Tuesday that Angels Cremation & Burial had not petitioned the state Supreme Court for a review, The Arizona Republic reported .

“It’s finally final,” Harris said.

There would be no more court challenges following the July 30 decision of the Arizona Court of Appeals, which effectively rejected the funeral home’s argument that state regulations are too vague.

According to court documents, a former Angels Cremation & Burial worker complained about the practice to the funeral board in 2016. Witnesses said owner Sandy Greenley told staff “not to worry about it” and that she “would take the heat” over the practice.

Greenley countered that the facility occasionally double-stacked containers in a refrigerator until they were picked up during winter months. But the practice was common across funeral homes, she added.

The board in 2017 found that the funeral home had violated state regulations involving the care of human remains.

Angels Cremation & Burial was penalized $5,500 in fines and administrative expenses.

In a statement to The Republic, Greenley said the board and its staff essentially committed bullying over a commonplace aspect of the funeral industry.

“Why are there still no laws in reference to stacking boxes to this day, just opinions?”

Judith Stapley, the board’s executive director, said stacking boxes containing bodies “has never, and will never be the prevailing practice in Arizona or anywhere else in civilized society.”

The appeals court has only weighed in on the issue of body stacking one other time. In October 2018, the panel upheld a decision to revoke a Mesa funeral director’s license. Franklin Lambert was accused of stacking containers and not refrigerating some of them at a crematory that he managed.

Lambert had argued body-stacking was not misconduct because it not explicitly banned in Arizona statutes or regulations.

He remains the owner of a Mesa funeral home. Its license will be the subject of a formal hearing by the board in November.


Information from: The Arizona Republic, http://www.azcentral.com