Ashes kept at Warren Funeral Chapel returned to where bodies were cremated

Friday, August 8, 2008 | 4:33 p.m. CDT; updated 8:56 p.m. CDT, Saturday, August 9, 2008

COLUMBIA — All of the cremains from the Warren Funeral Chapel have been transferred to the Boone County medical examiner's office and each set is in the process of being transferred to the place the body was cremated, said Boone County Medical Examiner Dori Burke.

The crematories and funeral homes should be able to identify the sets of ashes by the tags that are put inside and crematory log books, she said. This is the latest arrangement between the owners of the funeral chapel and the authorities after Attorney General Jay Nixon brought a suit against the home and its owners on July 25.

Burke said the medical examiner's office received somewhere between 20 and 30 sets of ashes, dating from 1992 to this year. Of those, she said 14 have already been transferred to Heartland Cremation and Burial Society, and some will be transferred to Parker Funeral Service and Central Missouri Vault Co. in New Bloomfield.

Dan Viets, attorney for Harold Warren Jr. and Harold Warren Sr., said from his understanding the Warrens were not breaking any laws by holding these ashes, especially the ones the families had not paid for.

Burke said the office has released three of the six bodies Viets said Harold Warren Sr. and Harold Warren Jr. had transferred from Fulton to Columbia, in order to turn them over to the authorities. As of 3 p.m. Friday, Burke said she was in the process of releasing a fourth body.

She declined to release the names of the bodies, saying the families asked her not to.

Scott Holste, a spokesman for the attorney general's office, said the office is working through about 15 or 20 complaints — most of them made after the lawsuit was filed.

"The complaints generally deal with concerns about how the remains of the family members have been handled and questions about whether they have the right set of remains," he said.

Boone County Assistant Prosecutor Richard Hicks said the Columbia Police Department is conducting an investigation into the Warrens and the funeral home. But he said to his knowledge, nothing has been submitted to the Boone County prosecutor's office, which means criminal charges have not been filed.

"This is just going along the normal routes that any other case would go," Hicks said.

Police Capt. Brad Nelson was not available for comment.

A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, at which point a judge will decide whether the Warrens will have to cease involvement with funeral directing while the lawsuit proceeds.


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