Bags Of Ashes Found In Old Funeral Home

CLEVELAND (AP) - Cremated bones and ashes were found in an abandoned funeral home before it was to be demolished, police said.

Up to 40 plastic bags and boxes containing what appeared to be cremated remains were strewn throughout the building, said police spokeswoman Jacqueline Lewis.

Whoever is responsible for leaving the remains behind could face charges that include theft, fraud and gross abuse of a corpse, said Kim Kowalski, spokeswoman for the Cuyahoga County prosecutor's office.

The former M.L. Baldwin Funeral Chapel and Cremation (pictured, above) is believed to have closed in 1997, according to state records.

Cassandra Baldwin, 38, held the license to operate the funeral home. She could not be reached on Thursday for comment.

The remains were discovered Thursday by a Cleveland Housing Department employee who was inspecting the building.

People who live in the neighborhood say that crack addicts have been using the building and that bags of dusty powder had been tossed outside.

John Stokes said that about a year ago he found two bags that had tags with names and dates on them.

"I guess they've been in there a long time," he said.

Ann Cunningham, executive director of the State Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors, said she would not comment until her agency has investigated.

It is not uncommon for funeral homes to store cremated remains that have not been claimed, said Mark Busch, owner and vice president of Busch Family Funeral Chapels.

"But they should have been properly cared for prior to the closing of this funeral home," Busch said. "I'm saddened that they were not properly cared for."

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)