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Agency files complaint over baby remains at funeral home

GARY, Ind. (AP) – The Indiana Professional Licensing Agency filed a complaint Friday against a funeral home where the remains of two babies were found inside small boxes above ceiling tiles, a spokesman said.

The complaint against Smith, Bizzell and Warner & Son Funeral Home was filed with the Indiana Attorney General’s Office, agency spokesman Nick Goodwin said. The Attorney General’s Office will now determine whether to file a complaint with the board of the licensing agency, and the board could then take disciplinary action against the funeral home.

Two compliance officers from the agency inspected the funeral home Thursday, the same day a spokesman for the business held a news conference at which he said small boxes containing the remains of two mummified or skeletonized babies were placed above the ceiling tiles by a former employee in September and taken down the same day by the home’s manager. The remains had been at the home for decades.

The funeral home had no comment Friday on the state complaint, a woman answering the phone there said.

Indiana law requires the contents of the agency’s complaint to remain confidential unless the Attorney General’s Office files a formal administrative licensing action against the home.

Goodwin said the Attorney General’s Office could seek a 90-day emergency suspension of the funeral home’s license. Goodwin says if that happens, the licensing agency’s board could call an emergency meeting as early as next week to consider it.

Molly Johnson, a spokeswoman for the Attorney General’s Office, said that disciplinary actions taken by the board could range from reprimand to license suspension to revocation and fines.

Funeral home spokesman Sean Howard said Thursday that Lake County officials had known for months that the funeral home had the remains and that the funeral home was trying to find birth, death and medical records to determine the identities of the babies, Howard said.

The Lake County Coroner’s Office retrieved the remains Wednesday. It wasn’t clear why the coroner’s office waited months to take possession of the remains.

Police have said they are investigating whether the remains were stored properly.

Howard said one of the babies had been at the facility since 1996 and the other one since either 1996 or 1997, nearly a decade before the current owners of the funeral home purchased the business in 2005.

The coroner’s office has said preliminary findings suggest the two babies died of natural causes.