NILES - Scott Robertson stood in quiet disgust Tuesday on the back porch of his Gypsy Lane home, clutching an urn with a label of ''Frances E. Robertson'' presumably identifying its contents.
"My biggest thing is, where are my father's remains?" Robertson asked. "I have a feeling I'm never going to find out, but I'm going to try."
Robertson was one of several Trumbull County families who awoke Tuesday with more questions than answers.
Tribune Chronicle / Ashley Newman
Scott Robertson is looking for answers after his father’s name was listed among cremated remains found at McDermott Funeral Home in Niles. Above, he holds the urn he was given in 2008.
Over the weekend, authorities confiscated the cremains of 42 people from the Robert P. McDermott Funeral Home in Niles. Niles police under the direction of the Trumbull County Prosecutor's Office used a series of search warrants to collect the remains.
The majority of the confiscated remains were identified, but that's where confusion and frustration have set in for several families.
Robertson's mother was given an urn when his father passed away in November of 2008, but his father's name also appears on the list of remains confiscated from the funeral home.
"I was shocked. As soon as I saw the headline, something told me 'I bet dad's name is in there.' Sure enough, there it was," Robertson said. "We had the whole thing paid up the morning of the service at the church with the urn.
"We believed that was my father's remains in there," he said.
Robertson is not sure where to turn next, but he did reach out to the Ohio Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors Tuesday morning after seeing the list.
"They said this is the first they had found out about it," Robertson said. "They took my name down and said probably someone from her office or the Trumbull County Prosecutor's Office will be contacting me.
"I'll probably wait a few days and if I don't hear anything, I'll call the Niles police or the prosecutor."
Robert P. McDermott declined comment late Tuesday night.
McDermott has been under fire and currently is locked in a court battle to try to 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.
He is still awaiting a decision from Trumbull County Common Pleas Judge Peter Kontos on the sanctions taken by the board to revoke his licenses.
The Ohio Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors informed McDermott of the action centering on mishandling of money from pre-need, or pre-paid, funeral service contracts last month. He filed an administrative appeal in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court.
In an interview Tuesday, Vanessa A. Niekamp, executive director of the board, told the Tribune Chronicle it is not out of the ordinary for funeral directors to hold cremated remains of those individuals whose family has not returned to collect the cremains.
"It is also possible that a funeral director may do a service for an indigent person where no one is identified," Niekamp said.
For those individuals, funeral directors can store the ashes on site at the funeral home, bury them properly in a cemetery plot or place them in an above ground niche.
However, for families who have returned for the remains, she said "100 percent of the cremains" are owed to the families.
"I want to know where my father's remains are and I would also like an apology from Mr. McDermott," Robertson said. "I don't know if I'm ever going to get it, but I want it for my mother."
In addition, other families have been left saddened over the possibility their loved one's remains were handled improperly.
Beth Harkins, wife of John Harkins, who's possible remains were located at the funeral home, said the situation sickens her. After her husband's cremation, she was given what she was told were his remains.
"I have something here. I don't know what it is," she said. "It's a sealed canister."
Meanwhile, the remains of Dorothy Yanci were supposed to be scattered on the grave of her parents, said her sister Barbara Petak. Petak said her daughter gave the instructions to the funeral home and that after that she was supposed to sign for her sister's final social security check to be used to pay for the arrangements.
The latter never happened and now she questions whether the former did either.
"We never did hear from them again," she said.
At least one family seemed to admit failure to pick up the remains after cremation. Helen Kearney said her sister-in-law Katherine Rostan had prepaid for her funeral and that Rostan's sons must have failed to pick up her remains, which were listed among those police confiscated from the funeral home.
"We would take the remains if the sons didn't want them," she said.
Kearney said her husband, Patrick Kearney, Rostan's son, called to offer to pick up the remains, but from what she has heard, they are not releasing them at this time and it may be two years until everything is sorted out.
Niekamp confirmed the remains are now under the control of the Niles Police Department pending an investigation.
"We will work with them to identify the family for them," Niekamp said. "The remains will be handled properly."
Tribune Chronicle reporter Margaret Thompson contributed to this story.