Police find dozens of infant remains missing paperwork at Detroit-area cemeteries

Posted at 2:17 PM, Dec 06, 2018
and last updated 2018-12-06 14:47:09-05

Dozens fetuses and infant remains were discovered during Detroit police raids on two metro Detroit cemeteries on Wednesday as part of the state's investigation into Perry Funeral Home.

According to police, the raids were prompted by a tip that there were between 100 and 125 fetuses from Perry Funeral Home being stored at the cemetery.

Officers say they discovered 27 sets of infant and fetal remains that had improper or missing paperwork from Knollwood Cemetery in Canton, Michigan and 17 from Gethsemane Cemetery in Detroit.

In October, officers found 36 fetuses in cardboard boxes and 27 more in freezers from inside Perry Funeral Home in Detroit. The Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs revoked the funeral home's license and shut down the facility. 

Earlier that month, police also discovered 11 infant bodies in the ceiling of Cantrell Funeral Home, also in Detroit.

According to the LARA database and Perry Funeral Home's website, the owner of Perry Funeral Home is James Vermeulen. 

Vermeulen is also the owner of Vermeulen-Sajewski Funeral homes in Plymouth, Michigan and Westland, Michigan. 

Vermeulen’s attorneys from the Collins Einhorn Farrell law firm released the following statement: 

Perry Funeral Home has been serving the Detroit community for decades and has been a reputable, reliable and caring member of the community. The allegations being made through the press are inaccurate. Perry Funeral Home has conducted itself within the confines of the applicable statutes.

These allegations involve only unclaimed infant remains. Perry Funeral Home received these remains from local hospitals who had indicated to Perry that the remains were “unclaimed” by the parents. In other words, the hospitals had informed Perry that the hospitals had reached out to the parents by certified mail and/or by phone, and the families did not respond. We do not believe that any of these remains involve families that paid Perry for funeral services.

In the case of unclaimed remains, a funeral home cannot bury remains without proper authorization, and the law in Michigan sets forth a hierarchy for authority. Perry relied upon and operated within that hierarchy, but Perry never received the legal authority necessary to conduct a final disposition of the remains.

Perry Funeral Home had not been informed that the parents of any of the deceased had desired for the remains to be donated to the medical school. Again, Perry was told that the remains were unclaimed by the parents. It is still unclear why any remains intended to be donated did not go to the medical school. Perry was not involved in any way with the body donor program, which was a program strictly between the hospitals and the medical school.

Perry has conducted itself within the law and has not committed any criminal offenses.