SALT LAKE CITY — Three mortuary personnel have been given suspended jail sentences for offenses including selling gold taken from bodies and cremating infants and fetuses with adults.
Carver Mortuary in South Salt Lake underwent an 11-day emergency shutdown in November 2017 by the Utah Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing and was allowed to resume operations under terms of a five-year probation.
The mortuary closed in 2018 and the Salt Lake County Attorney’s Office filed criminal charges against the owner, two managers and an employee.
The mortuary held contracts with public and private entities for cremations. Clients included the Utah Department of Corrections, Salt Lake County, the Utah Office of the Medical Examiner and Intermountain Medical Center.
Tanner Carver, the mortuary’s owner, pleaded guilty in 3rd District Court to three misdemeanor counts of unlawful and unprofessional conduct in return for dismissal of 14 other counts. On Oct. 12 this year, Judge Royal Hansen sentenced him to three one-year jail terms but suspended the terms.
Hansen fined Carver $1,000, ordered him to perform 100 hours of community service and serve two years’ probation.
Court records said Carver, 35, lived in Spanish Fork but has since moved to Texas, where his family has interests in other mortuary businesses.
Michael Deacon Jones, 40, a Carver Mortuary manager, pleaded guilty to a charge of removing items from human remains and two counts of unlawfully preparing a body for burial. Five other charges were dismissed.
Salt Lake County prosecutors alleged Jones in June 2017 sold 14.4 grams of 10 karat gold scrap, 41.2 grams of dental gold and 3.1 grams of palladium scrap. He received $1,000 from a recycler for the metals.
In a probable cause statement, a police investigator said a photo showed the gold scrap “does not appear to be melted down; rather it looks like intact crowns that have been removed from a person’s mouth.”
Hansen sentenced Jones on Nov. 20 of this year to three one-year jail terms but suspended all but five days of incarceration. He fined Jones $13,875 but suspended the fines, and told Jones he would face an undetermined restitution payment amount.
Jones was put on 12 months of court probation, told to perform 50 hours of community service and take a thinking-errors class. The judge also told him to stay out of the mortuary business.
Employee Beau Gordon Hintze, 38, pleaded guilty to one count of unlawful preparing of a body for burial. Two other counts were dismissed. He received a suspended one-year jail sentence, 18 months’ probation and a $1,000 fine plus 25 hours of community service.
A second manager, Shane Adam Westmoreland, 42, faces 17 misdemeanor charges. He pleaded not guilty in August and faces a jury trial Feb. 20.
The state licensing division ordered Carver and Westmoreland to surrender their funeral services director licenses for two years.
In its emergency order Nov. 2, 2017, the state division said it found that unlicensed people were doing cremations; fetuses or infants’ remains were cremated with the bodies of adults; the cremation retort was not fully emptied after a cremation; and ashes that remained in the retort or could not otherwise be identified were thrown away.
Further, the division alleged, bodies were cremated without identification or records and the cremation log was frequently incomplete.
The division alleged it was “regular practice to separate gold and precious metals from human cremains and the management then sold gold and metals and kept the money.”
The mortuary kept jewelry, watches and rings and an informant said he saw employees wearing the jewelry, according to the division order.
Additionally, the mortuary “engaged in a pattern of commingling cremains,” the document said. “There is a high risk that bodies and cremains are being misidentified.”
The business “failed to comply with ethical standards of the profession and require all deceased persons to be treated with the highest respect and dignity (in a) professional, caring and conscientious manner,” the document said. Instead, management “continues to operate in a manner that exploits vulnerable deceased adults and their families,” the order said.
In a Facebook post at the time, the mortuary denied allegations and said it was confident it would be absolved.
During the 11 days in November 2017 that Carver was under state supervision after the emergency order, the licensing division oversaw the disposition of about 20 bodies, agency spokeswoman Jennifer Bolton said by email last week.
Under a series of contracts, Carver Mortuary received thousands of dollars per year from government entities for cremating the remains of indigents and prisoners whose relatives either did not want to claim the remains or could not afford services.
According to state financial records, the Department of Corrections paid Carver Mortuary $5,500 in fiscal year 2017, which ended June 30 that year. The mortuary charged the state $500 apiece for 11 cremations.
The new contract holder for cremation of prisoners, Kramer Family Funeral Home and Cremations, charges $550 to $600, said manager Landon Ford.
The amount is higher because the state has increased its cremation fee to $207.
“We get about $350 to $400 and $207 goes to the state,” Ford said.
Other government-paid cremations are in a similar range. For instance, Davis County pays its provider $450 per cremation, according to a county contract document.