COLUMBIA - More than a week after investigators discovered unsanitary conditions at Warren Funeral Chapel, six more bodies were recovered from inside the chapel Friday afternoon. This discovery may potentially change the lawsuit against the chapel, said Scott Holste, the spokesman for the state attorney general office.
"At this point, we're going to review information obtained by the Columbia Police Department from its visit out on the scene yesterday and try to take everything into account," Holste. Holste said he had been given no additional information regarding the six recovered bodies.
Late Thursday, the Warrens told their attorney, Dan Viets, that there were six more bodies in the chapel, Viets said. Viets didn't know where these bodies were in the facility and was unsure of why investigators didn't find these bodies during a search of the facility July 11. He also said the Warrens didn't know why no one found the bodies during the initial investigation as well.
"Apparently the investigators overlooked these," Viets said.
Holste said that the State Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors completed a thorough inspection of the chapel on Wednesday. Holste would not comment as to whether any bodies were located in the facility during Wednesday's inspection.
Viets said he called the office of the attorney general and the State Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors, and they arranged to take care of the bodies and have them cremated, he said. Holste said that he was made aware of the additional bodies being removed when he saw a news release from the Columbia Police Department at about 5:15 p.m. Friday.
There was no improper motive with these new events, Viets said. Rather, he said the Warrens took the initiative to report the bodies.
"They want to get everything there straightened up and cleaned up," Viets said. The funeral chapel had "very difficult financial situations to cope with," largely due to patrons being either unable or unwilling to pay for the Warrens' services, Viets said. He added that the Warrens pick up bodies from death sites, performing a "very valuable service," even if they didn't have the money to take care of all of the bodies.
Viets wasn't surprised that new bodies were found, "given the other facts that have come to light," he said. However, Viet said he feels the Warrens have been honest with him so far. Asking the authorities to take charge in cremating these new bodies was a "logical thing" to do, he said.
- Missourian reporter Michael Sewall contributed to this report