The badly decomposed bodies of 11 infants were found in the ceiling of a former funeral home on Detroit's east side, Detroit police said.
The remains were found late Friday afternoon by state investigators just hours after they received an anonymous letter explaining how to find the bodies carefully hidden inside the false ceiling, Detroit police said.
The bodies had been hidden inside the former Cantrell Funeral Home at 10400 Mack Avenue at Garland, about 10 blocks east of the Indian Village neighborhood. The funeral home was closed by state authorities in April after they found numerous violations of state law.
After the infants' bodies were uncovered, Michigan State Police used a cadaver-trained police dog to search the entire building, but no additional bodies were found, said Detroit police Lt. Brian Bowser.
"We do have names for some of the remains and we're going to try to contact the families," Bowser said.
He said he was unable to say how long the remains had been stored there or how old they were. But he said he was upset "by the callousness" of whoever had placed the remains of infants, some of them apparently stillborn, inside a cardboard box hidden in the drop-down ceiling of a stairwell. Police want to speak to the former home's longtime owner, Raymond Cantrell, Bowser said.
"Obviously, it was either an employee or someone who had knowledge" of the business and the building who hid the bodies, for unknown reasons, he added.
The successor business of the shuttered funeral home in Detroit operates on Kelly Road in Eastpointe as Cantrell Funeral Services. That firm's answering service said none of the owners or manages were available to comment Friday night. The firm's website praises the former Detroit's home's longtime owner, Raymond Cantrell. The website says:
"Our father, Raymond E. Cantrell, founder of Cantrell Funeral Home in Detroit, has provided excellent service for over 50 years. As the next generation of funeral directors, our goal is to continue in his footprints of quality, family-oriented and customer focused funeral service."
A spokesman for the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs confirmed Friday that state inspectors found the bodies.
“We will use the evidence gathered today to add to our open investigation and will continue to work with local law enforcement as this case proceeds,” LARA communications director Jason Moon said in and email.
In April, state investigators found that embalmed bodies had been stored for months in an unrefrigerated garage and other unsanitary areas, allowing them to deteriorate — one body was kept from January until April before it was cremated, according to state officials.
The funeral home, which had operated for half a century, also had committed numerous other violations of state rules, such as the failure to deposit more than $21,000 in prepayments by at least 13 customers who'd signed contracts for future funeral services, according to the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulation.
Also in April, state regulators suspended the funeral home's license and suspended the individual mortuary science license of the manager, Jameca LaJoyce Boone, according to state website.
Overall, state officials had charged the operators of Cantrell Funeral Home with "fraud, deceit, dishonesty, incompetence, and gross negligence in the practice of mortuary science," according to a report issued in April about the decision to close the business.
In particular, the state says that anyone "who converts funds paid pursuant to a prepaid contract to his or her own use or benefit … is guilty of a felony punishable by a fine of $5,000 or imprisonment of not more than five years, or both," according to the website of the state Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs.