SALT LAKE CITY — State officials suspended the license of a mortuary in South Salt Lake after reports of employees stealing jewelry from bodies, conducting cremations without identification and leaving bodies outside refrigerators.
On Thursday, the Utah Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing released an emergency order suspending the licenses of the Carver Mortuary Service and funeral directors Tanner Carver and Shane Westmoreland.
The directors "engaged in conduct which constitutes gross incompetence, gross negligence or a pattern of incompetency," the report stated.
But Westmoreland dismissed the claims as being from "disgruntled" former employees.
"They're making all sorts of claims that are simply not true," Westmoreland told the Deseret News. "There's never been a body here that's been treated with disrespect," he said. "There's never anything that's been stolen."
After receiving a license in February 2008, the funeral home provided services for Intermountain Medical Center, Utah's Office of the Medical Examiner and Salt Lake County, according to the report.
Two former employees hired at the mortuary earlier this year testified before state regulators, according to the report.
Robert Price said he did not hold a license when he was hired as a removal assistant in February. His duties included removing deceased people from various locations, performing cremations and sewing together an autopsy patient.
According to the order from the state licensing agency, he said he witnessed the funeral directors violating ethical cremation practices, including cremating infant remains with deceased adults at the same time.
This "occurred on a regular basis" during his employment, Price told regulators.
Price also reported the cremation retort was not fully emptied after use, and unidentified ashes were thrown away.
Although the mortuary kept a cremation log, Price said the log was often incomplete. Cremated persons were sometimes unidentified or missing paperwork authorizing cremation, according to his testimony.
Employees also separated "gold and precious metals" from human remains, selling the metals and keeping the "significant" profits, according to the order from the state licensing division.
The second employee, Erin Christensen, also did not hold a license when he was hired as a removal assistant in March, according to the order. He was fired from the mortuary in August, the report noted.
He testified refrigerators containing bodies was often full, and unembalmed bodies were left outside of the refrigerators for periods of a day or longer.
The embalming room was also unsanitary, according to the report, and appliances and services were not cleaned regularly.
Both former employees said taking jewelry, watches and rings from bodies was a common practice at the mortuary. Christensen testified he had seen employees wearing the items, the state report said.
The funeral directors failed to provide records state inspectors requested from the mortuary, the report stated.2 comments on this story
"The respondents have failed to comply with the ethical standards of the profession that require all deceased persons to be treated with the highest respect and dignity," the report concluded.
State officials will hold a formal hearing to decide the final disciplinary action for the mortuary and its operators.
Westmoreland believes the company will be vindicated.
"Once we do explain all these things, I'm confident that they will grant the license back," he said.
Contributing: Nicole Vowell