WARREN - Cremated remains of 42 customers - including ashes found in temporary containers, marble urns and plastic bags - were confiscated over the weekend at the Robert P. McDermott Memorial Home in Niles.
Under the direction of the Trumbull County Prosecutor's Office, Niles police and a representative of the Ohio Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors used a series of search warrants from two judges to gather the remains - including some that remain unidentified - along with business records.
A laptop computer was seized from the Florida room at Robert P. McDermott's home at 825 Lincoln Ave., Niles. And 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.
The cremated remains of 42 customers were found in McDermott Memorial Home on Warren Avenue in Niles.
Tribune Chronicle / R. Michael Semple
McDermott said late Monday the cremated remains found in the funeral home belonged to families who had not returned for them.
"Those are 42 legal cremations that were performed," McDermott said. "Family members have not returned to pick them up."
A local bank purchased the business property at a sheriff's sale Thursday, and McDermott has been under fire and currently is locked in a court battle to try and stay the permanent revocation of his state license for the business and credentials as a funeral director, according to an affidavit used to get the search warrants.
The affidavit signed by Judge Andrew Logan and Eric Anderson, an inspector with the state board, points out that McDermott would soon have to vacate the business address, so warrants were issued for home and business.
The search warrants had to be re-written after it was discovered by Niles Capt. Ken Criswell the addresses were written for locations in Girard instead of Niles. The re-written warrants were signed by Judge W. Wyatt McKay and Anderson on Friday.
The search warrants were returned Monday afternoon.
Assistant County Prosecutor Charles Morrow said there were no arrests as a result of the search warrants, but he said that it is customary that when local police work with a state agency on a search warrant, results of that search are normally presented directly to a grand jury.
Anderson says in the affidavit that he had reason to believe that the search would turn up evidence of violations in the sales of contracts, a fourth-degree felony, and theft, a third-degree felony.
McDermott is still awaiting a decision from Judge Peter Kontos on the sanctions taken by the board to revoke his licenses.
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 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 case.
McDermott has been licensed as a funeral director since 1985 and his funeral home has been licensed in the state since 1998. Until October of 2012, McDermott was the funeral director actually in charge of the business. Oct. 15, 2012, Thomas Kinnick, a licensed funeral director, became the funeral director in charge of the business, at McDermott's request, the board says.
In February, McDermott gave the board a list of 58 names of persons he contracted with for preneed funerals and remained unfunded. The first five names were the subject of an earlier disciplinary action. Another three were removed since there was either no contract or the funeral was fully funded.
Anderson pointed out in his affidavit that ''funeral homes are required to maintain the relevant records with the remains until they are properly disposed or delivered to the family of the deceased. These records include cremation files at need burial files and/or records, burial permits, cremation authorizations, and death certificates.''
Similar types of records were subject of the search.