Warren Funeral Chapel to close for 15 days

Wednesday, July 30, 2008 | 9:06 p.m. CDT
Dan Viets, the lawyer representing the Warren Funeral Home, talks with reporters on Wednesday after a hearing in which Assistant Attorney General Peter Lyskowski announced an agreement between the state and the Warren Funeral Home that would cease all operations for 15 days.

COLUMBIA — Warren Funeral Chapel agreed to a temporary restraining order that effectively shuts the business’s doors for the next 15 days, the Warrens’ attorney, Dan Viets, said at a hearing Wednesday afternoon at the Boone County Courthouse.

Roughly a dozen people were present, but Harold Warren Jr., the funeral home’s current director, and previous director Harold Warren Sr. did not attend the hearing.

Viets said the Warrens hired him earlier Wednesday to represent them in the case, which Attorney General Jay Nixon filed Friday in Boone County Circuit Court.

“I’ve just gotten into this,” Viets said.

Judge Kevin Crane signed off on the restraining order. Viets said he and Assistant Attorney General Peter Lyskowski agreed to the order so they would have time to discuss other aspects of the case.

“They (the Warrens) will not operate for the next 15 days, and we’ll use that time to resolve the other issues,” Viets said.

Scott Holste, a spokesman for the attorney general’s office, said it would be up to the Warrens to prove they can operate the funeral home in accordance with state regulations.

“They’re going to have to convince the same state inspectors that came out earlier this month,” Holste said.

According to the lawsuit, those inspectors found unsanitary conditions, a garbage bag containing organs from multiple bodies in a casket and the decayed, unembalmed body of a woman who had been stored at the funeral home since September 2007.

“Our most important focus here is to ensure that these families are protected,” Holste said.

After the hearing, Holste said the attorney general’s office had received between 15 and 20 consumer complaints since the lawsuit was filed.

Viets and Lyskowski agreed to reschedule for Aug. 12 a hearing on a preliminary injunction, which was originally scheduled for Aug. 4. If that injunction is granted, the funeral home would be shut down until the case is resolved.

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