I-TEAM: State suspends funeral home's license

Surprise inspection found a decomposing body in a refrigerator

By Jennifer Waugh - The Morning Show anchor, I-Team reporter, Eric Wallace - Senior Producer, I-TEAM

ATLANTIC BEACH, Fla. - An Atlantic Beach funeral home and cemetery that have been the subject of a News4Jax I-TEAM investigation for three months has now had its last remaining license suspended by the state of Florida.

Friday afternoon, the Florida Division of Funeral, Cemetery and Consumer Services issued an emergency order of suspension for First Coast Funeral Home, ordering the owners to stop all business. The owners also own Beaches Memorial Park.

The order was issued after a state investigator, who was performing an unscheduled inspection this week discovered a decomposing body inside a broken refrigerator at the funeral home.  According to the order, the body had been at the funeral home for more than two months, and the family was still waiting for it to be cremated.

VIEW: Emergency Order of Suspension

The inspection revealed that the body was so decomposed, that maggots were found inside. The report also states that someone had tried to conceal odors coming from the body with a powder typically used for embalmings.

The order does not give the name of the person whose remains were found, but identifies them as “B.A.,” adding that the body was identified by a hospital ID bracelet and ankle tag. “B.A.” had died on May 4, and First Coast Funeral Home had been hired to perform the cremation. The owner of Beaches Memorial Park and First Coast Funeral Home, Amanda Rayan, told the investigator that the body was already decomposed when she received it, even though the tag indicated the person had died the same day the body was transported to the cemetery.

Amanda Rayan

The inspector found that the refrigerator where the body was being stored had a temperature above 50 degrees Fahrenheit. State regulations require that bodies be stored at a temperature of 40 degrees or below.

The case detailed in the state report is not the first the I-TEAM has learned about in which a family has had to wait more than the standard five to seven days for their loved one’s remains to be cremated.

The I-TEAM met Tina D’Alessandro on May 20, while interviewing another upset family.  D’Alessandro said her mother was hysterical, since they had not received her father’s ashes two weeks after he had died.  She had paid Beaches Memorial Park and First Coast Funeral Home to perform the cremation, and expected to find the owner’s husband, John Rayan, at the cemetery when she arrived.

Tina D'Alessandro

“He told us, both of us, that my dad would be ready today,” D’Alessandro said. “I explained to him that I am leaving the country for a month and it’s imperative that I have my dad’s remains and that my mother has those before I leave.  So I told him I’d be coming down in the morning to pick him up.”

D’Alessandro said Rayan never showed up, and that she had to turn to another funeral home to track down his body, and help her mother get her husband’s ashes.

In May, the I-TEAM shared a similar experience that Marie Reeder had. Her life-long friend, Karen Hawkins, died March 12. Reeder said each time she called Beaches Memorial Park, no one would answer.  She called the state to complain, but it still took 56 days to finally get Hawkins’ ashes. 

Karen Hawkins

The state has opened an investigation into what happened to Tina D’Alessandro’s father as well as what happened to Karen Hawkins.

The I-TEAM has discovered that in the past, the state has sometimes taken months, even years, to conduct investigations.

Beaches Memorial Park’s cemetery license expired in December, but the owner has still not been disciplined. The company’s pre-need sales license expired at the end of June and was not renewed, so it has been suspended by the state.

The I-TEAM has learned that since its stories started airing, the state has now assigned a team of investigators to look into what’s been happening at Beaches Memorial Park and First Coast Funeral Home.

If anyone has a complaint about Beaches Memorial Park or its sister company, First Coast Funeral Home, they can contact the I-TEAM at iteam@news4jax.com or 904-479-NEWS.

Anyone who would like to file a complaint or has questions can visit the state’s Division of Funeral, Cemetery and Consumer Services website or call the division at 850-413-3039, or toll-free in Florida at 800-323-2627.

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