Body of baby handled by Warren Funeral Home exhumed

Wednesday, September 3, 2008 | 9:33 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA - The body of an 11-day-old girl was exhumed from a Fulton cemetery Tuesday after the girl's family raised concerns that her gravesite might not actually contain her body.

The family of Kisa Lee-Ann Graves requested the disinterment of the child, whose funeral arrangements were handled by Warren Funeral Chapel, which is facing a lawsuit from the attorney general that accuses the funeral home of improperly storing bodies and keeping unsanitary conditions.

The body in the casket dug up Tuesday at the city-operated Southside Cemetery was indeed Graves' and was reburied, said Boone County chief forensic investigator Dori Burke, who was at the disinterment.

The family's initial dealings with Warren Funeral Chapel might also have made them suspicious, Burke said. When the medical examiner's office finished the autopsy and released the body after the child's death in July 2007, the Warrens did not allow the family to view the body, she said.

Graves died in July 2007 of sepsis, an infection of unknown origin, Burke said.

Matt Harline, assistant to the director of administration for Fulton, said records indicated Graves was born July 13, 2007, died July 25, 2007, and was buried Aug. 1, 2007. But Burke said the medical examiner's records indicated Graves was 11, not 12, days old when she died.

Fulton Mayor Charlie Latham, who was one of a few city officials contacted by the Graves family, arranged for the city to pay for the disinterment, Harline said. He said the bill would likely come to $350.

A funeral director from the state board of embalmers and funeral directors was present at the disinterment, as required by law, said Scott Holste, a spokesman for the attorney general's office.

Brenda Porter of the attorney general's office was also there, serving as a victim's advocate for the family, with whom she had previously spoken, Holste said.

Graves' father, Timothy, was present, Burke said.

Columbia resident Patricia Johnson was also there, looking into getting her sister's grave disinterred, Burke said. Johnson has filed a complaint about Warren Funeral Chapel with the attorney general's office, and she said she isn't sure where her sister is buried.

Harline said the city currently has no plans to disinter more graves. But if more people came forward, he said, "the city is not really prepared to do an unlimited number of these."



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