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CFO Sink Restricts Lake Wales Funeral Home Director’s Activities after Decomposed Body Found

4/28/2009

TALLAHASSEE—Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink has filed an emergency order immediately prohibiting a Lake Wales funeral home director and embalmer from performing embalming of bodies after a routine inspection by the Department of Financial Services led to the discovery of an improperly embalmed body that had been left to decompose for more than three months. 
 
The body of the man, a 75-year-old Jamaican native, was laid to rest on Saturday, April 18, 2009, in Lake Wales Cemetery.  The man died on December 22, 2008.
 
“This is reprehensible from a licensed professional in this industry,” said CFO Sink. “This individual was entrusted to do an important and sacred job, and failed.”
 
The emergency order, signed last week, requires Epps Mortuary, located at 626 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Blvd. North in Lake Wales, to find a licensee to conduct the embalming per approval of the department.  The department has since approved licensees to conduct the embalming and refrigeration and confirm compliance with state law, which requires bodies to be embalmed or refrigerated within 24 hours.  They also are required to notify the department of any bodies that may be stored at the facility for more than seven days.
 
An inspector from the department’s Division of Funeral, Cemetery and Consumer Services conducted a routine inspection on March 26 at Epps Mortuary.  She said she immediately knew something was wrong because of a strong odor and found the badly deteriorated body when in the preparation room. In addition to not being refrigerated, the body had either been inadequately embalmed or not embalmed at all and was infested with maggots and other insects, was covered in heavy mold growth, and was leaking fluids.
 
Events such as these are extremely rare and can be prevented if families and friends follow these tips:
 
Be actively involved with the funeral arrangements.

Be aware and plan for the inevitable.  Make wishes known prior to death.

If truly in a financial bind, contact your local county social services department to find out about any aid that may be available.

Carefully review all documents before signing and make sure to keep a copy.
 
CFO Sink oversees the Department of Financial Services, which licenses and regulates the funeral and cemetery industry through the Division of Cemetery, Funeral and Consumer Services. This department regulates 9,000 licensees including funeral directors, funeral homes, and pre-need sales agents.