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Inside an abandoned funeral home: A hidden compartment, a casket – and 11 dead infants

By Avi Selk and Avi Selk Washington Post

The horrors inside the old Cantrell Funeral Home had been cleansed in the spring, people thought.

State inspectors had walked into the east Detroit establishment one day in April and found two bodies grown over with mold, the Detroit Free Press reported. The face of a third was covered with strange fluid. They had been stashed in an unrefrigerated garage for weeks or months, the state alleged.

Raymond Cantrell, who had taken over the business the previous year, told Fox 2 Detroit that he’d been storing the corpses until their families found money to pay for their funerals – “a favor,” as he put it. The state disagreed, and closed the place down.

It never reopened. Lately, there had been talk of a new owner turning it into a community center, the Detroit News reported. Neighbors saw work crews coming and going, fixing up the stained floors and chipped walls.

And then on Friday, the inspectors abruptly came back.

They had received an anonymous letter that day, Lt. Brian Bowser told reporters outside the funeral home after Detroit police had cordoned it off for the second time since April.

The letter contained directions, the homicide lieutenant said. It led the inspectors to a “hidden” compartment in a lowered ceiling – so concealed that Bowser was not sure anyone would have found it otherwise.

Inside the ceiling were a cardboard box and a casket. The casket contained two dead infants. The box held nine more, wrapped in trash bags.

“They’re very small remains,” Bowser said.

The inspectors called 911, and on Friday night police were trying to contact Cantrell to ask about the 11 dead babies in what had once been his ceiling — to find out if that was another so-called favor to his cash-strapped clients.

The homicide lieutenant thought not.

“It’s just the callousness of the owner, the operators, the employees of the funeral home,” Bowser said.

He said the medical examiner knew the identities of at least some of the infants and was trying to contact their families. The Detroit News reported they appeared to be stillborn.

“I really don’t know how that could even have happened,” the funeral home’s most recent manager, Jameca LaJoyce Boone, told the Detroit News on Friday night. “It’s very unfortunate and they definitely need to find out who put them there.”

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