UPDATE: Owners of Warren Funeral Chapel turn ashes over to medical examiner

Thursday, August 7, 2008 | 1:50 p.m. CDT; updated 10:12 p.m. CDT, Thursday, August 7, 2008

COLUMBIA - The attorney for the owners of Warren Funeral Chapel said they are in the process of turning all cremated remains in their possession over to the Boone County Medical Examiner as part of an agreement worked out between the Warrens and the Missouri Attorney General's office.

"The Warrens are working with the Boone County Medical Examiner to make sure all remains are accurately identified and accounted for," said Dan Viets, the attorney for the chapel's owners, Harold Warren Sr. and Harold Warren Jr.

He said all ashes were scheduled to be handed over to the Boone County Medical Examiner on Thursday, but he couldn't confirm whether all the remains were currently at the medical examiner's office.

Viets said if any remains had not been turned over as scheduled, they will be as soon as possible.

Also, another of the six bodies the Warrens transported to Columbia from Fulton has been released to the family, Boone County Medical Examiner Dori Burke said. She said all the bodies were people from Columbia, and she did not know why they were in Fulton.

Viets said he did not know why those bodies were in Fulton, but he presumed it was because that chapel had the storage space available.

Burke said five of the bodies have been identified, and she is waiting for a man thought to be the son of the sixth to come in from New York and positively identify the body.

Burke said Thursday morning she expected two of the six bodies to be turned over to family members that day and another to be picked up Friday.

She said the bodies were of people who had died earlier: one each in September 2007, October 2007 and January 2008 and three in May 2007.

Two of the six families said they had already received ashes, Burke said, and none been told their deceased family member had not yet been cremated.

She said the two families have returned the ashes. However, without identification tags, there is no way to know the whose remains the families received, Burke said.

Warren Funeral Chapel has been closed since July 30, when the Warrens agreed to a temporary restraining order. The Attorney General's office filed a lawsuit against the chapel and both Warrens on July 25. The lawsuit states that the chapel violated several health codes, including not refrigerating or embalming some of the bodies and not cleaning the embalming room or utensils.

On Aug. 1, Kathy Johnson filed a civil suit against the Warrens. Viets said he has not heard from her lawyers.

Viets, who has advised the Warrens not to speak to the media, said he has not received reports or any other evidence in the possession of the Attorney General's office. He also said he does not yet know the entire history of the situation.

He said thus far, most of his job has been to facilitate communication between the authorities and the Warrens.

As of 5 p.m. Thursday, Missouri did not list any scheduled hearings for Johnson's civil suit.

Johnson's lawsuit also cites Dave Turner, the caretaker of Rockbridge Cemetery. He has not responded to repeated attempts to contact him.


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