Police: Embattled embalmer found digging in cemetery

WARREN – Since Robert McDermott lost his funeral home and his funeral director’s licenses, and since cremains were confiscated last week by authorities, even cemetery sextons have become suspicious.

A Weathersfield Township police report was filed Friday when Kerr Cemetery Sexton Don Tenney said he spotted the embattled funeral director digging around a gravesite the day before.

Tenney told Weathersfield Patrolman Kristopher Hodge that on Thursday, McDermott and another man dug a 2-foot-by-2-foot hole that looked like a footer. When Tenney turned to take a phone call, McDermott and the other man left.

The next morning, Tenney found the hole filled with cement.

”Bob knows you can’t just leave an open hole like that. He should have checked with me first,” Tenney said, adding that McDermott has been on notice since about May to not dig any holes or do footer work ”due to past issues.”

McDermott said Tuesday he was simply putting in a foundation for a monument that marks the gravesite of an infant who died a couple of years ago.

”It was an 18-by-10-inch pad that eventually will hold a monument,” McDermott said.

Weathersfield police say they will investigate the report further.

But it was Niles police, who joined with an investigator for the Ohio Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors last week to use a search warrant to confiscate a laptop from McDermott’s Lincoln Avenue Home and more computers, business records and the cremated remains of 42 customers from the funeral home on Warren Avenue. The funeral home was recently sold back to a bank at a sheriff’s sale.

The remains in urns, containers and Ziploc bags, and some of the ashes labeled as unidentified have turned up questions from former McDermott customers who have questioned whether they have the proper remains of their family members and loved ones.

Any findings from what was found with the search warrants will be presented to a grand jury, according to prosecutors.

The state board permanently revoked McDermott’s licenses earlier this year.

The board informed McDermott of the action centering on mishandling of money from preneed, or pre-paid, funeral service contracts last month. He filed an administrative appeal in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court.

The board of embalmers and funeral directors say violations against McDermott ”involve well over 50 individuals and over $150,000 that Mr. McDermott, in essence, unlawfully converted to his own use,” according to pleadings in the case in which McDermott seeks reinstatement of his licenses.

McDermott had been licensed as a funeral director since 1985 and his funeral home had been licensed in the state since 1998.