Judge: Bury cremains

WARREN – Unidentified cremated remains found at a Niles funeral home during a search for financial records can be disposed of or buried after Common Pleas Judge Andrew Logan signed an order this week.

Niles police sought the court’s permission through the Trumbull County Prosecutor’s Office after most of the cremains confiscated at Robert P. McDermott Memorial Home have been returned to surviving family members.

Capt. Ken Criswell of Niles Police said he returned another one Tuesday, and there are seven unknown remains, most of which are partial remains.

”We simply needed a judge’s permission to dispose of them,” said Criswell.

He likened the document Logan signed to similar petitions used to destroy confiscated drugs and weapons from outdated criminal cases.

Criswell and Trumbull County prosecutors said the remains have no value as evidence in any future legal matters. Representatives with the Ohio Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors were enlisting the help of local funeral directors and cemeteries to dispose of the remains in a dignified matter, according to the petition.

Attorney Michael Scala, who represents McDermott, said prosecutors contacted him and they agreed to photograph the remains in case any questions arise later. ”The judge’s order was simply a routine bookkeeping measure to document what was done with the remains,” Scala said.

Niles detectives found the remains of the 41 customers – including ashes found in temporary containers, marble urns and Ziploc bags – in August.

Besides remains, 24 individual pieces of potential evidence, in the form of boxes of records and files, were seized from the funeral home at 614 Warren Ave., Niles, which was recently sold at a sheriff’s sale.

The records are believed to be part of evidence investigators are using to build a case against the funeral home. McDermott was seen outside the grand jury room since the search warrant was served.

The state board informed McDermott in July of the action centering on mishandling of money from pre-need, or prepaid, funeral service contracts. He filed an administrative appeal in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court.

The state board says 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 appeal case.