Funeral Director and Missouri Politician Pleads Guilty to Mishandling of Corpses

Harold Warren Sr., 77, a Missouri funeral home director has pleaded guilty to intentionally giving three families the wrong cremated remains. This includes leaving a woman’s body in an electrical room for 10 months without embalming or refrigeration. What is interesting is that Circuit Judge Gary Oxenhandler indicated that he might not honor the plea bargain for no jail time for Warren, who is a prominent political figure in the area. There are questions of whether the prosecutors cut Warren a remarkably light deal due to his political connections and standing in the community.

Warren could face four years in prison on each of the charges, but reached a deal with prosecutors to avoid jail time. Under the deal he would get four years probation, pay back the money on the funeral services, and give the families an apology. The families have criticized the deal with prosecutors and I don’t blame them. That is pretty light for such an horrific act. Warren is accused of not only giving them the wrong body but leaving other bodies in bags in the basement.

Warren was also arrested recently for allegedly writing a bad check, here. That charge, however, was for a check of only $318 and was written on an account with insufficient funds (not normally a matter for an arrest).

Warren was Columbia’s first black City Council member and is still a prominent civic leader. He has received public support from the state and local chapters of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. The deal with prosecutors has been denounced by some families, who also have the option of suing him in torts. The mishandling of corpses is treated as a distinct tort under the common law and often brings punitive damages.

For the full story, click here.

17 thoughts on “Funeral Director and Missouri Politician Pleads Guilty to Mishandling of Corpses”

  1. I respect Harold Warren. A funeral home manages everything in the preparing and preparing of a funeral. They will make sure the body is transferred to the funeral home along with the necessary loss of life accreditation’s and documentation. All the facts are managed by this person so the deceased’s loved ones can remember without having to deal with documentation and other legal issues.

  2. Ashes to ashes. We are all made of stardust. Becoming bone dust is just one step closer to going home. Spread my ashes in the sea. For the sea calls to us, be it made of the saltwater blood in our veins or the stars what forged the iron it carries. Nature is a circle that moves in a straight line. Sometimes we see the waves. Sometimes we hear them. Sometimes all is still. But the sea is still there. It calls to us all.

  3. I just attended a lecture on burial practices of the Susquehanna people in PA and NY. The current thinking is that they used a burial ground over a long period of time. There are graves that are more ancient with a person who has one bone turned in an opposite or not anatomical matter. Later, another person, presumably related, is placed in an embrace on top of the older skeleton. In other cultures people are buried with their heads towards the solstice. This is believed to mirror a cultural belief in reincarnation.

    Our burials don’t seem very humane to me.

  4. Jill: “I object. Do you think chucking bodies out the back door is cheap? What if you have to part them out? Did you ever think about that!!! No, you didn’t! ”

    OMG You’re right! This Warren character did have his son and at least one hired staff working for him and MO. obviously has to maintain regional staff just to make sure the funeral directors are protected, to say nothing of the State required fee I’m going to have to pay for for the Refusal form being signed off on… As a labor advocate and member of the tax/fee generating drone class I repudiate my earlier statements; I just wasn’t thinking about the greater societal good this trade in death generates 🙂

  5. Jill–I have settled estates and buried family members in Ohio and California. In Ohio, the funeral lobby requires that you go through a funeral director, etc., the loophole being membership in a simple burial society (of which there are several). These organizations negotiate with funeral homes and offer very modest pricing. In California, you can deal directly with a crematorium, the cost is far less than dealing with a funeral director, and does not require the step of joining an organization and the advance directives involved. particularly if one does not want a service or viewing, you are practically giving money to funderal directors and often legally forced to do so. there have been scandals like this in other states–Sadly, many funderal directors do not take their responsibility to loved ones seriously.

  6. LK,

    I object. Do you think chucking bodies out the back door is cheap? What if you have to part them out? Did you ever think about that!!! No, you didn’t!

    P.S. I’m so glad you spit in the punch bowl. It’s hard enough to have your dad die and then go through this.

  7. Funderal directors have lots of legal protections. In many states, you can’t do a burial without their involvement and rather expensive set of fees. This is true, for example, in Ohio. Over time, I’ve noticed that a surprising number of politicians are iether licensed real estate brokers or have some connection to the funeral business. HHS Secretary Dibelius is the daughter of a former Ohio governor/funeral director, John Gilligan, for example. Funeral directors have power in communities that forms some sort of religious or ethnic/racial minority—they help carry on community traditions often in the face of discrimination of some sort, know literally everyone, and make piles of money.

  8. MS, “..estate handling process in all States are corrupt.”

    I’m getting that impression. If the funeral director’s get special treatment then the least they could do is fill out the paperwork properly the first time.

    Correction above: CONE 11-12, 2,100 degrees.

  9. Lottakatz,
    I have a hunch that the probate and estate handling process in all States are corrupt. It seems that local politicians use it as a way of rewarding colleagues and lawyers find it a good income source.

  10. Judge Roy Bean,
    Why is it I think your sense of outrage might be different if the perp was white?

    The sentence was far too light, obviously, but to me it would also be interesting to know what exactly this man was thinking. Why keep a supposedly cremated corpse in a body bag for a years.
    The story is horrific, but the weirdness is extreme.

  11. The plea deal is outrageous and I hope Judge Oxenhandler rejects it. This ghoul belongs in jail. Jail is too good for him. I couldn’t find Judge Oxenhandler’s contact info at the court house, only a contact page at his law firm but I don’t think it’s current. There is a number for the Circuit Clerk for Judicial Circuit 13 in Boone County though:

    http://www.courts.mo.gov/page.jsp?id=4674

    Who would have thought that there would be a corrupt funeral home director in Missouri?

    The funeral directors in Missouri are on my list of late. I’m down to the last bit of business to settle my dad’s estate which amounts to a nursing home refund for 2K and a bank account with $600.00 in it. The check is made out to the “estate of”.

    In Missouri in order to get access to the estate’s money I had to go to the probate court and get a Creditor Refusal which is a lien waiver form essentially. That is, I had to have proof that the funeral home/director and cemetery had been paid in full. Srsly. They are the only creditor that gets this legal protection. Just having bills from the funeral home that were literally stamped with a big red “PAID” and signed by the funeral director wouldn’t do. (!?!)

    At one point the probate clerk, her supervisor and a probate lawyer were all going through the bill as an exercise in forensic accounting and came up with a list of ‘ambiguous’ charges (though I could explain each one) that needed official explanation and further itemization/proof of payment from the funeral director. If I can’t get it cleared up the check ends up in the States unclaimed funds account and I can try to claim it from the State. Amazing. The funeral director is re-doing the bill and will write an explanatory letter addressing each charge questioned for me so it should work out eventually.

    At one point in the proceeding I said ‘Man, those funeral directors sure have a hellofa lobby” and they all just looked at me like I had spit in the punch bowl. 🙂 As if I don’t know how things work in Jefferson City as a life long resident of Mo.

    They did apologize for all of the trouble this had become for me and later in the process I got the distinct impression that the clerk was as unhappy with the situation as I was from little comments she made about the law ‘taking care of’ certain favored creditors but, it is the law in Missouri.

    Should I proceed my better half I want to be cremated and have my ashes planted under a bush in the back yard, as we do with the deceased cats. It’s green, simple, and environmentally circular- what’s not to like about it? The better half wants cremation too. Unfortunately, over the years there have been so many stories like this one that I’m kind of afraid of following through with that choice. I do own a kiln large enough to get a dead body in and it will go to 12,000 degrees but I don’t think that’s a viable option. 🙂

  12. Now we have the NAACP involved. Descreation of corpses seems right up their alley. I would say hang him, but I am sure someone would say that I am being racially insensitive. Get a rope and hang him.

  13. Here’s one of the original stories from the hometown newspaper.

    http://www.columbiatribune.com/news/2009/sep/26/three-count-indictment-cites-warren/

    “In another case, Warren gave ashes to the family of Dorenda Versey, a Columbia grandmother who died at age 86 in 2007. On July 11, 2008, nearly a year after her death, investigators found her body in the Warren chapel basement, embalmed but not cremated.

    On July 29, 2008, the family, accompanied by a Tribune reporter, went to confront Warren. Although the reporter was barred from the meeting, multiple sources said Warren admitted he had lied about cremating the body but that he refused to release the appropriate remains to the Versey family, citing an outstanding bill of $1,500.”

    One would imagine that Warren could claim a common law artisan’s lien on the remains, but how could he prove that he increased the value?

  14. I Guess Missouri is truly the Show Me states. This one begs for more sarcasm, but I will refrain. Today.

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