By Ed Runyan
Most of the four-person detective bureau at the Niles Police Department has worked nearly fulltime the past three weeks talking to people with concerns about the closed Robert P. McDermott Memorial Home.
“It has just consumed us. It’s been a priority,” said Capt. Ken Criswell of the Niles Police Department.
One of the calming things Criswell has been able to tell people who had a loved one cremated at the Warren Avenue funeral home is that they most likely received the proper cremains.
There are two boxes of cremains that could involve an error and the possibility that the proper cremains were not given to loved ones, Criswell said.
In most cases, it appears that loved ones got the correct cremains but there was too much to put in the container being used, so the excess was placed in a second container at the funeral home, Criswell said.
So far, it’s not clear whether leaving the extra cremains at the funeral home is a crime, Criswell said. It’s a practice most funeral directors say they try to avoid, he said.
The cremains of 41 people — some not properly identified — were found at the funeral home in late August just after the funeral-home building was sold at a sheriff’s sale. The Niles Police Department took possession of the cremains.
The number was 42 several weeks ago, but one of the containers was empty.
In some of the 41 cases, the containers and boxes are full, and that would indicate that no loved one claimed the cremains, Criswell said.
Criswell said he believes detectives have talked to most of the people who have called the department regarding the funeral home, but there probably will be more.
The department is investigating the funeral home as a criminal matter, including allegations by the Ohio Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors that the funeral home misappropriated more than $150,000 in prepaid funeral expenses for more than 50 customers.
Criswell said detectives continue to talk to customers with concerns regarding prepaid expenses, and they don’t know if the number of people affected has risen above 50.
That’s because he doesn’t know who the people the Ohio Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors talked to, arrive at the $150,000 figure.
Robert P. McDermott has not cooperated with investigators, Criswell said.
McDermott has appealed the revocation of his funeral-director’s license and the funeral home’s license. Judge Peter Kontos of Trumbull County Common Pleas Court had a hearing in the matter in August but has not ruled in the case.