COLUMBIA — A year after the first allegations against Warren Funeral Chapel emerged, owners Harold Warren Sr. and Harold Warren Jr. acknowledged wrongdoing and signed an agreement Wednesday that stripped them of their funeral directors' and embalmers' licenses and revoked the licenses for both of their funeral homes.
The agreement settles charges brought against the Warrens by the Missouri Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors in July 2008. The Warrens stipulated that the board’s allegations – a laundry list including improper storage of bodies and unsanitary conditions – were true.
The Warrens’ funeral homes in Columbia and Fulton have been effectively shut down since July 30, 2008, as a result of a court injunction in a lawsuit filed by then-Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon. That suit is still pending, as is a class action suit against the Warrens by former customers.
In a separate agreement, the board dismissed charges against Helen Warren, Harold Warren Sr.’s wife, and she agreed to give up her funeral director's license and never reapply for one.
“Despite the fact that the Warrens have not been in the business of providing funeral services for almost a year, this action was still necessary,” board chairman Martin Vernon said in a press release. “This revocation serves to ensure mid-Missouri families that these individuals no longer have the legal authority to provide services that require a licensed funeral director or embalmer.”
The settlement signed by Harold Warren Sr. and Harold Warren Jr. outlined numerous violations. According to the agreement, the Warrens did not have a refrigeration unit to store bodies, and one woman who died of hepatitis was left unembalmed and unrefrigerated for roughly 10 months.
Inspectors found unsanitary conditions, including an embalming table covered with blood and instruments that hadn’t been cleaned, according to the agreement. The Warrens also kept incomplete or incorrect records and embalmed some people without authorization, according to the agreement.
Meanwhile, Harold Warren Sr. has taken a job with Millard Family Funeral Home, which occupies the spot once held by Warren Funeral Chapel in Columbia. Owner Reid Millard said Warren Sr. would be doing primarily janitorial work and not funeral directing or embalming.
Millard said he hired Warren Sr. because numerous community members voiced support for him. “Harold is liked by a lot of people and has done a lot for the community,” Millard said.
Patricia Johnson, who has joined the class action suit against the Warrens, said she thought it was improper for Warren Sr. to work in any funeral home. Johnson believes her sister’s body is not buried where Warren Sr. said it was, and she wants the grave exhumed.
“Considering how he destroyed my family, I don’t think he should step in a funeral home under any circumstances,” Johnson said.
It is unclear what affect Wednesday’s settlement will have on the Warrens’ other pending lawsuits.