Harold Warren Sr. indicted on funeral home charges

Saturday, September 26, 2009 | 3:12 p.m. CDT; updated 8:10 p.m. CDT, Saturday, September 26, 2009

COLUMBIA — A grand jury indicted Harold Warren Sr. on Friday on three counts of unlawful merchandise practices and misrepresentation in connection with Warren Funeral Chapel.

The state had shut down the chapel in 2008 because it found a history of malpractice and unsanitary conditions. Warren and his son, Harold Warren Jr., lost their funeral directors' and embalmers' licenses.

The attorney general filed a petition July 25, 2008, which stated that inspectors found unsanitary conditions and improperly stored bodies at the Columbia funeral home. One woman, who had hepatitis, had been left unrefrigerated and embalmed for 10 months.

Kathy Johnson spent three years looking for her mother's body. She said the elder Warren promised Johnson a grave marking, which never materialized.

"I don't have any pity for him," Johnson said. "He gets what he deserves."

Warren's attorney, Dan Viets, said the indictments didn't surprise him.

"At least initially, as in most criminal cases, we'll be filing a not guilty plea," he said.

Viets said he will try to come to an agreement with the prosecutor.

As for Warren, Viets said, "I'm going to communicate with him at every step of the case."

A representative of the attorney general's office could not be reached for comment.

Johnson said she discovered her mother's remains in February. But the body was not buried in the $845 vault for which Johnson had paid — she found it in an unsealed casket with plastic lining, worth less than $200.

The body of Beckie Harris, Johnson's mother, now resides in Columbia Cemetery, which donated the plot. Johnson said she doesn't have the money to pay for another $845 vault, and she said the process was like paying for a funeral twice.

In 2008, Johnson filed a civil suit against former Warren Funeral Chapel director Harold Warren Sr. She said she's happy about the indictment, and her civil suit is not enough for some people.

"I've got confidence that it will go a lot further," she said.

Johnson said she would like an apology from Warren, but she hasn't heard from him.

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