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Published: Wednesday, 3/7/2012 - Updated: 2 years ago

Police investigating abuse of corpse charge against West Toledo funeral home worker

BLADE STAFF

An employee at a Toledo funeral home is being investigated for allegedly fondling a corpse, according to a police incident report.

Toledo police Sgt. Joe Heffernan said the Special Victims Unit was investigating and that charges could be forthcoming on Wednesday.

The name of the H.H. Birkenkamp Funeral Home employee is being withheld because charges have not yet been filed.

The police report states that police were called to the funeral home, 3219 Tremainsville Rd., at 4:40 p.m. Tuesday because an employee “fondled a deceased client.”

The family of the deceased identified the victim as Brenda Shular-Cameron, 51, of Woodville, who died Sunday of multiple organ failure, said Anne Lamprecht, the victim’s mother.

“I’m enraged,” Ms. Lamprecht said. “My daughter died a horrible death. She was a beautiful young woman. I cringe to even think of them touching her.”

Ms. Lamprecht said that the funeral home owner, Susan Birkenkamp, offered Ms. Shular-Cameron’s children a free casket and funeral if they did not contact the police about the incident. Ms. Lamprecht said the family declined, called the police immediately, and had her daughter’s body transferred to Ansberg-West Funeral Home on West Sylvania Avenue.

“We can’t even bury her now,” Ms. Lamprecht said. “We can’t make funeral arrangements. We don’t know if the police will hold her body. She didn’t deserve this. None of the family deserved this.”

Lisa Marshall, a Houston-based spokesman for Birkenkamp, said Ms. Birkenkamp did make notification to the family on Tuesday.

She said she “disagree[d] with the characterization that you [The Blade] got from the family” about what happened in their meeting with Ms. Birkenkamp.

She also said that, after the family was contacted, the funeral home contacted the Ohio Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors, which has oversight of the state’s funeral homes.

“We deeply regret that these circumstances are causing additional stress and anguish for this family,” Ms. Marshall said. She added that officials at the funeral home are cooperating with the police investigation and that she could not provide specific details because of the ongoing investigation.

The employee, although Ms. Marshall would not say how long he was employed by the funeral home, was a part-time, unlicensed employee.

She did not say if he had regular contact with bodies or what his specific duties were.

He is no longer employed by the funeral home.

“We work really hard to train our employees and make sure they adhere to the highest standards of all things,” Ms. Marshall said. “Because people are human, sometimes things happen, so when that does, our policy is disclosure to the family.”

Ms. Lamprecht said the funeral home was made aware of the “fondling” by another funeral home employee who witnessed the alleged abuse. That employee reportedly said he would go to the authorities if the family was not notified.

Ms. Marshall said she was unaware of such a scenario.



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