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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Cadavers donated to Idaho State University not received

Associated Press

POCATELLO, Idaho – Bodies that were to be donated to Idaho State University for educational purposes have not been received by the school, officials said, as several agencies investigate the funeral home that was supposed to be facilitating the donations.

Police searched Downard Funeral Home in Pocatello on Friday, two days after a state licensing inspector reported finding a decomposing body at the business, the Idaho State Journal reported.

Lance Peck, who purchased the funeral home in 2007, surrendered his licenses to operate the business on Wednesday, Idaho’s Division of Occupational and Professional Licenses said. Peck did not return several requests by the newspaper for comment about the investigation. A phone message left at the funeral home Sunday was not immediately returned.

Peck has a history of licensing violations, including failing to donate the remains of a person who died in 2012 to Idaho State University, the licensing agency said.

Police reported finding several unrefrigerated bodies and several fetuses in their search of the funeral home on Friday, but declined to say how many.

The Ada County Coroner’s Office brought its mass casualty refrigeration trailer to Pocatello to store some of the remains while those that could be identified were transferred to other funeral homes, who would notify families, police said.

“We know there are a lot of unanswered questions about the case,” Pocatello Police Chief Roger Schei stated in a statement. “Our department has those same questions.”

Idaho State University had received anatomical donations through Downard Funeral Home dating back to 1996 and received an average of eight donations each year, ISU spokesperson Stuart Summers said. Cadavers can be kept for up to four years before being returned to the funeral home, according to the university’s anatomical donation program.

However from 2008 to 2020, ISU received nine total donations despite an exclusive agreement with Downard to handle the donations. There were two three-year periods in which ISU did not receive any anatomical donations, Summers said.

ISU entered into a relationship with the University of Utah to obtain anatomical body donations, Summers said, before setting up a donation agreement with another funeral home.

“When (ISU) began working with Wilks Funeral Home, the university notified individuals who had filed an intent-to-donate form of the change. In the process, the university learned some families believed the remains of their deceased loved ones had already been donated to Idaho State University through Downard Funeral Home, but the university had no records of these donations,” Summers told the newspaper.

ISU returned its final five anatomical donations to Downard Funeral Home in April 2017. About four years later, one of the families contacted the university to report they had not received their loved one’s remains from the funeral home, Summers said.

Idaho State University’s audited its records and dealings with Downard Funeral Home last fall and found “multiple causes of concern,” Summers said. The university filed a formal complaint with the Bannock County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, Pocatello Police and the Idaho Division of Occupational and Professional Licenses this spring.

That investigation continues, said Bannock County Prosecutor Steve Herzog.

As of Friday, no charges had been filed and no one was in custody in connection to the investigation, authorities said.

Peck has faced other licensing violations.

In 2016, he was placed on probation for two years over allegedly performing 100 cremations without a license from November 2014 through June 2015.

In 2018, he was placed on probation for two years after telling a family their loved one’s remains would be donated to a forensic canine program that trains search dogs, but the program did not receive the remains. Peck eventually found the person’s cremains in his crematory in November 2017, the Idaho Division of Occupational and Professional Licenses reported.