ATLANTIC BEACH, Fla. - Beaches Memorial Park and its sister company, First Coast Funeral Home, are under new management after the state board that oversees cemeteries and funeral homes voted Friday morning to allow the businesses to be sold.
At an emergency meeting Friday morning, the Florida Division of Funeral, Cemetery and Consumer Services also voted unanimously to revoke the licenses of the owner, Amanda Rayan, and her husband, John Rayan.
The new owner, Todd Ferreira, who owns funeral homes in Macclenny and in Starke, was already at the Atlantic Beach property and told the I-TEAM that he will honor all pre-need contracts and make right the pain of grieving relatives whose family members' graves were never marked, and, in at least one case, a loved one was never cremated.
The new owner said he will attempt to bring comfort and peace to at least 70 families who were wronged by the Rayans.
"Today is a new day," Ferreira said. "My whole responsibility is to bring peace and compassion to people. And that's what we do, one family as a time."
John Rayan, who managed the businesses, posted bond Thursday night and was released from the Duval County Jail about 10:30 p.m.
Rayan, 35, was arrested last week on 16 charges, most resulting from taking money for services that were never provided. He is charged with 11 counts of grand theft, one count of improper storage of a body, one count of fraud, one count of dealing with stolen property, one petit theft and one count of false verification of ownership to a recycler.
For months, the News4Jax I-TEAM has been exposing complaints from families who still have no markers for their loved ones’ graves and crypts.
The sale of the businesses has brought hope for families that the new owner will help them find peace after months of heartbreak.
"It feels like a weight has been lifted. It feels good," said Cassandra Hutchens. "It's a relief to have someone in the industry dealing with this on our side. It's great."
Hutchens said her battle with John Rayan began in January when she said he gave her nothing but excuses as to why she had to wait three weeks to receive the ashes belonging to her mother, Donna Orner.
"It's been really hard not having a chance to grieve over my mom. It's been a battle. She always fought for me and now I feel like I've been battling for her. And that's what I've been doing," Hutchens said.
Hutchens said the name plate she bought to appear next to her father's name is still missing. But on Friday, she met with Ferreira who gave her promising news.
"He said he was going to get on the phone and make things right, right away," Hutchens said.
In less than an hour, Ferreira tracked down Hutchens' order and is now working to get her father's name plate delivered.
Ferreira said he will honor all pre-need contracts written by Beaches Memorial Park and First Coast Funeral Home.
The state has agreed to help him pay for a portion of the markers that were never delivered and he said he'll make up the difference out of his own pocket.
Anyone who never received a marker that they purchased is asked to call 904-249-1166.
Ferreira, owner of Ferreira Funeral Services, told News4Jax in January that he had arranged to bury Lonzie Barton, free of charge to the family.
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