Warren pleads guilty, could face four years prison or probation

Monday, November 16, 2009 | 1:42 p.m. CST; updated 8:47 a.m. CST, Tuesday, November 17, 2009

COLUMBIA — For the first time since allegations against the Warren Funeral Chapel surfaced, its owner, Harold Warren Sr., appeared in court Monday to plead guilty to the three charges filed in the indictment.

Warren, 77, faces up to four years in prison for unlawful merchandising practices and misrepresentation in connection with the sale of funeral and cremation services.

According to court documents, Warren gave cremated remains to three of his clients that were not those of their deceased relatives.

The state shut down the funeral home in 2008 because of malpractice and unsanitary conditions. Warren and his son, Harold Warren Jr., lost their funeral directors’ and embalmers’ licenses.

Stewart Freilich, assistant Attorney General, recommended a four-year sentence, but he said he would not oppose Warren serving it on probation instead of in prison.

Boone County Circuit Judge Gary Oxenhandler said he would accept the sentence recommendation, but he has the discretion to decide on all the provisions in the plea agreement, including whether Warren receives probation or prison time.

The plea agreement between the Attorney General and Warren states that Warren will have to pay a total restitution of $2,685 to the three families involved in the case and publish an apology in a four-inch by four-inch advertisement in the Columbia Tribune.

Vanae Scott wasn't satisfied. She was given the wrong ashes after her daughter, Tasha Loggins, died in March*.

“(Warren) needs to go to prison,” Scott said. "He should not just get a slap on the wrist."

Scott said when Warren gave her the ashes of her daughter, he told her that she was cremated at Heartland Cremation and Burial Society in Columbia. But on Aug. 1, 2008, she received a phone call from the Boone County Medical Examiner that the bodies of her daughter and five other people had been found unrefrigerated in the basement of the Warren funeral home.

Scott said she wouldn't accept Warren's published apology. “If he wanted to really apologize, he would have done it in 2008,” she said.

Warren’s sentencing hearing is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. on Jan. 11.

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