Family Seeks Answers After Corpse Report

FAIRFAX, Va. -- A man who says his father's body was left for months to rot in the garage of a Falls Church funeral home is asking for a criminal investigation.

Richard Morgan Jr. of Harrisonburg hand-delivered a letter Monday to the office of Fairfax County Commonwealth's Attorney Raymond Morrogh, arguing that the National Funeral Home neglected the remains of his father, Maj. Richard Morgan, so badly that it constitutes a felony under state law.

"Placing my father's corpse in a garage, unrefrigerated, cannot be characterized as anything but willful and intentional," Morgan wrote in his letter, noting that defilement of a corpse is a felony under Virginia law.

The elder Morgan's casket was not buried for several months after his November death because the family was waiting for a full military burial at Arlington National Cemetery. The younger Morgan was told that the body would be refrigerated while it awaited burial.

Morgan's demand for a criminal investigation comes after The Washington Post reported Sunday that National Funeral Home and its parent company, Houston-based Service Corporation International, routinely neglected corpses and sometimes left them stacked for months on racks in an unrefrigerated garage to rot.

The younger Morgan believes his father's body was one of those neglected, based on photos taken by a former employee who documented the neglect.

Morrogh told The Post he does not yet know whether he will launch a criminal investigation.

National Funeral Home was placed on probation for three years and ordered to pay a $13,000 fine last year after an unannounced inspection found unsanitary conditions and other violations. It was the second time in the past six years that Virginia regulators put the home on probation.

Morgan said he does not believe regulatory reprimands will change the company's behavior.

"They treat it as a cost of doing business," Morgan said. "It's not going to stop unless people go to jail."

State regulators have declined to discuss the Post's report.

J. Scott Young, president of SCI Virginia Funeral Services, said in a statement that the company is conducting its own investigation of the allegations and will cooperate with state regulators.

The funeral home at times has also been responsible for bodies to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery. A whistleblower, former embalmer Steven Napper, said employees were instructed to dump scoops of industrial deodorant in the caskets so that Arlington officials would not detect the level of decomposition.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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