Funeral probe similar to others

WARREN – With a second Trumbull County funeral home now under scrutiny by detectives and the state’s governing agency, it may only be a matter of time before separate criminal investigations hit the court system.

And if the investigations result in charges, they could mirror the case of former funeral home director Scherrie McLin in Dayton, who was sentenced this month to four years in prison after pleading guilty to taking prepaid funeral expenses for personal use.

Ohio’s Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors already yanked licenses at Robert P. McDermott Memorial Home in Niles this summer and McClurkin Funeral Home in Girard last week. Funeral directors at both businesses also lost their credentials.

Police in both communities are investigating the businesses; any evidence that turns up will be given to the Trumbull County Prosecutor’s Office.

In each case, the common thread appears to be allegations of mishandling of money for pre-need, or pre-arranged, funerals which is supposed to be deposited and kept secure or turned over to insurance companies until a funeral is held.

The state board said Patrick and Robert McClurkin have stolen more than $400,000 from consumers and have “placed the funeral services of these individuals in clear jeopardy.”

In Niles, the board said McDermott had misappropriated more than $150,000 in pre-paid funeral expenses for more than 50 customers at his Robert P. McDermott Memorial Home at 614 Warren Ave., Niles.

McDermott filed a lawsuit and is using an administrative appeal to regain his credentials.

But in the meantime – and similar to the McLin case in Dayton – McDermott’s funeral home was foreclosed on.

Home Federal Savings and Loan bought the Niles property that was appraised at $90,000 for $60,000 at a sheriff’s sale Aug. 15.

Another similarity involves the cremated remains of 56 people found a year ago in Dayton in a home owned by McLin, the 53-year-old half sister of former Dayton Mayor Rhine McLin.

Authorities said the cremains were in boxes and came from the funeral home. Police used a search warrant to take the remains and records to build a criminal case. Police also began the process of notifying the next of kin before indictments came in the form of 12 felony counts against McLin, including grand theft, theft from an elderly or disabled person, tampering with records and violations of the pre-need contracts. Besides the prison time, she was ordered to repay more than $200,000 from the pre-need contracts that she converted to her own use.

In Niles, police confiscated remains of 41 or 42 customers while using a search warrant to take McDermott’s records in the funeral home and his personal home.

This past week, Capt. Ken Criswell, a Niles detective, said all but two or three of the remains have been matched up with the proper loved ones.

Some of the remains were left behind by customers who either didn’t pay for the remains or failed to pick them up. Some of the ashes were leftovers after customers’ remains were placed in specifically-ordered urns or containers.

”A couple were unidentified and we have questions on a couple. But we’re working to match those up to,” Criswell said Friday.

The state board meanwhile says the law requires that cremated remains be disposed of 60 days after they are not claimed.

There are no charges yet in McDermott’s case, although he was seen outside a second-floor room in Trumbull County Courthouse Sept. 13 when a grand jury was in session.