Philadelphia News & Search
A South Jersey funeral-home employee has admitted dumping a child-sized casket, which had a bag of human organs inside, on a North Philadelphia sidewalk earlier in the week, police said Thursday.
The infant, who was about 3 or 4 months old, was buried a week ago, said Capt. Malachi Jones of Northwest Detectives.
The body and organs of the baby originally were in a casket at the South Jersey funeral home, which Jones declined to identify, but the infant’s body was then put in another coffin for the June 29 burial because the original white casket had a broken latch, he said.
It is not yet known why the organs, which were in a black plastic bag, were not put in the new casket and buried with the baby.
“Just prior to the funeral, the casket latch broke,” Jones said. “The baby was transferred from that broken casket to another casket. The broken-latch casket was placed in a vehicle, and an employee took that vehicle, and sometime during the employee being out with that vehicle, the casket, which was inside of a bag, was dumped at that area.”
Police responded to the 3100 block of West Clearfield Street about 9 p.m. Monday after receiving a 911 call about the discovery of a small white casket protruding out of a black trash bag on the sidewalk across from a cemetery. An investigator with the Medical Examiner’s Office, who went to the scene, confirmed that embalmed human organs were inside a black plastic bag that was inside the casket, Jones said.
Police searched on foot and by air that night to see if there were any recently dug-up graves, but found none, said Jones. Mount Peace Cemetery is across from that area of Clearfield Street. Also nearby are Mount Vernon Cemetery and Laurel Hill Cemetery.
The South Jersey funeral home director, whose name was not released, called police on Tuesday afternoon to report that an employee admitted dumping the casket on the North Philadelphia sidewalk, Jones said.
Police have spoken to the male employee. He said he did not know the bag with the baby’s organs were inside the broken casket, Jones said. The captain said police did not know why the employee, who is believed to live in New Jersey, drove to North Philadelphia and dumped the broken casket on the sidewalk sometime on Monday instead of disposing of it properly.
Jones said there were no surveillance cameras in that area of Clearfield Street that captured the employee dumping the casket.
He said the infant’s death was not believed to have been suspicious. His understanding was that the organs had been removed during an autopsy, which is common in the death of a young baby. He did not know the baby’s gender.
“We hear it’s customary that sometimes when an autopsy is done, the organs are placed in a bag,” said Jones. “But the fact that the organs were separate from the baby, we’re still investigating that portion of it.”
As for the baby’s family members, they have been notified, said Jones. “From my understanding, the family was quite upset,” he said.
He said he expected the baby would be “made whole” with the organs later being buried with the child, but he said that will be up to the family.
Jones, who spoke at a news conference at Northwest Detectives headquarters, at Broad Street and Champlost Avenue in the city’s Ogontz section, said police are conferring with the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office to see if any charges, such as abuse of corpse, are warranted against anyone involved. No charges have been filed at this point, he stressed.
The funeral home employees have been cooperative, and the investigation is continuing, he said.
Philadelphia News & Search