Cindy Putman protests outside the H.H. Birkenkamp Funeral Home on Tremainsville Road, where family says a corpse was abused.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This version clarifies a 1988 case.
Toledo police have arrested a 57-year-old Michigan man and charged him with abuse of a corpse for allegedly “fondling” a woman’s body at a west-side funeral home.
Charges against Lawrence J. Clement, of 2411 Sunnydale Dr., Temperance, were filed just after 9:30 a.m. Thursday.
He was arrested at about 1 p.m. in West Toledo, according to a news release from Toledo police. Police say that he had “sexual contact by means of touching erogenous zones” of Brenda Shular-Cameron, 51.
Ms. Shular-Cameron died Sunday of multiple organ failure, which, according to documents filed in Toledo Municipal Court is when the alleged abuse occurred.
The man, who was at the time a part-time employee at H. H. Birkenkamp Funeral Home, 3219 Tremainsville Rd., has been fired by the business, a spokesman said on Wednesday.
Toledo police are investigating the alleged incident involving Ms. Shular-Cameron, a Chrysler employee who died at Hospice of Northwest Ohio.
Officers took an initial report at the home Sunday. An investigation by the department's special victims unit didn't begin until Wednesday.
Marc Nail, 27, Ms. Shular-Cameron's son, said he and his sister, Amber Thebeau-Tunison, 33, met with funeral home manager Susan Birkenkamp on Tuesday and were told their mother's body was "mistreated."
A woman who answered the phone at the funeral home said Ms. Birkenkamp was not there.
In the meeting with Ms. Birkenkamp, Mr. Nail said he and his sister were told if they went to police, the incident would become public record. He said she then allegedly offered to forgive the $11,000 funeral cost if the family didn't call police.
Houston-based funeral home spokesman Lisa Marshall said she "disagree[d] with the characterization that you [The Blade] got from the family" about the meeting.
She also said the funeral home contacted the Ohio Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors, which oversees the state's funeral homes.
The board's acting director, Jennifer Baugess, confirmed that, on Tuesday, the funeral home contacted the agency.
"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 was part time and unlicensed. Ms. Marshall did not say if he had regular contact with bodies or what his specific duties were.
Lawrence J. Clement, 57, of 2411 Sunnydale Dr., Temperance, was charged with abuse of a corpse for allegedly 'fondling' a woman's body at a west-side funeral home.
Mr. Nail said he was told another funeral home employee witnessed the "fondling."
Ms. Shular-Cameron's family had her body transferred to Ansberg-West Funeral Home, her mother, Anne Lamprecht, said.
"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."
The Ohio Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors is also investigating the allegations, Ms. Baugess said. If its investigation finds wrongdoing, the board could suspend or revoke the license of the funeral home or the funeral director. The board cannot take disciplinary action against unlicensed employees.
Ms. Shular-Cameron's body was embalmed Monday night.
Lucas County Coroner Dr. James Patrick said his office had not yet been contacted by the Toledo Police Department to do an autopsy, but it is not uncommon for county coroners to do autopsies on embalmed bodies.
"As a general rule, we can get a fair amount of information, but each situation is unique and we just have to see what we would be able to do," he said.
H.H. Birkenkamp, in Toledo for 150 years, has had problems in the past.
In 1988, two former employees, John Gardner and Ronald Allen Yeager, were found guilty in court of abusing a corpse.
Gardner was sentenced to a year in prison; Yeager, as part of a plea bargain, was granted limited immunity.
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