The bodies of 11 babies were discovered hidden away inside the defunct Cantrell Funeral Home in Detroit, Michigan, which is being turned into a community center.
The horrific discovery came months after state authorities closed the Cantrell Funeral Home because of issues with “decomposing and moldy” bodies, according to Fox 2. A man named Raymond Cantrell took over the funeral home in 2017, the television station reports.
The discovery of the 11 babies’ bodies was announced by the Detroit Police Department, and the bodies are being turned over to the medical examiner’s office. Police have not revealed how the infants died or their identities. News of the gruesome find broke on October 12, 2018.
Here’s what you need to know:
The Babies’ Bodies Were in a Hidden Compartment
The bodies of the babies were located in a ceiling, according to Click on Detroit.
Discovered by construction workers turning the building into a community center, the infants’ bodies were tucked away inside a “hidden compartment” – nine in a cardboard box, and the rest in caskets, Click on Detroit reported.
The State Shut the Funeral Down in Spring 2018 After Finding ‘Improper Storage of Embalmed Bodies’
In April 2018, the Cantrell Funeral Home was shut down by the state because of alleged “deplorable conditions,” Click on Detroit reported. Decomposing bodies were discovered in a back room and non-refrigerated garage, the television station reported, adding that 20 bodies were found at that time. Some were in caskets but others were “lying on tables” and some were “decomposing for months,” reported Click on Detroit.
You can read the press release from the state Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs shutting down Cantrell Funeral Home here. You can read the complaint here in full:
Among other findings, the state alleged the following:
“After first being denied entry to conduct an inspection, an inspector found an unclean and unsanitary embalming room, with peeling and chipping paint, water stained walls, dirty floors, and stained protective gear.
Improper storage of embalmed bodies found on April 10, 2018, in an unrefrigerated garage since November and December 2017; a third body was kept from January 9, 2018 until April 17, 2018, when it was cremated.
Improper storage of embalmed bodies found on April 25, 2018 with two bodies in an advanced stage of decomposition, covered in what appeared to be mold and in the establishment’s possession since January and February 2018, and a third body with the facial area covered in unknown fluids.”
“Michigan residents trust funeral home directors, owners, and their establishments to follow the law, especially when dealing with the death of a loved one,” said CSCL Director Julia Dale in that press release. “We will continue to aggressively hold every funeral home in Michigan to the highest standards of public health and safety when providing final arrangements.”
Raymond Cantrell Previously Claimed He Was Storing Bodies for People Who Couldn’t Pay for Funerals, Reports Say
According to Fox 2, Raymond Cantrell explained the previous discovery of moldy bodies through an altruistic viewpoint. He claimed he was storing the decomposing bodies for people who couldn’t afford funerals. That comment came before the babies were found, though. Some bodies were in “advanced stages of decomposition,” reported Detroit News.
All of that was before the infants’ bodies were also discovered on October 12.
“Flat out disgusted, I can only tell them the truth,” Cantrell said to Fox 2 about the other bodies. “Those who have asked me to hold their loved ones will know I was doing them a favor to accommodate them. For those that weren’t, like the many of the cremated they are trying to take from here or that they are taking from here. Those individuals we called we’ve tried to notify and they haven’t been picked up.”
The LinkedIn page of Raymond Cantrell II says he was president of Cantrell Funeral Home since 2017. Before that time, he worked as a mental health practitioner in Louisiana for Family Services Unlimited, Inc. and as a special education instructor in Louisiana. He also worked for Target and Huntsville City Schools, according to his LinkedIn page, working as a computer laboratory instructor. He has a certificate in mortuary science from Wayne State University and also attended Eastern New Mexico University, Northwestern State University, and other colleges, according to his LinkedIn page.
The National Funeral Directors Association still has a lengthy page devoted to the funeral home on its website.
It is the death notice for the funeral home’s founder, Raymond Cantrell Sr. The funeral home, at one time, was “one of the largest Black-owned Funeral Homes in Detroit, Michigan,” the site reports. The elder Cantrell was painted in an inspirational way, building a business from the ground up while working in a barber shop and for Ford Motor Company.
The Cantrell Funeral Home bore the motto “Where beauty lives” and Cantrell Sr. would say that he and staff tried “to allow the deceased to look as natural and restful as possible while providing a comprehensive professional service that will respect the guardianship and dignity of the deceased,” the death notice says.