Funeral director charged with abuse of corpse after decaying bodies found

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Charges have been filed after decomposing bodies were discovered inside a West Philadelphia funeral home that was operating without a license.

Charges have been filed after decomposing bodies were discovered inside a West Philadelphia funeral home that was operating without a license.

Investigators spent the day Tuesday identifying two of the three bodies discovered. They still can't identify one person, or who the organs belong to that they found in trash bags.

52-year-old funeral director Blair Hawkins is charged with three counts of abuse of a corpse.

Police say Hawkins tried to prevent investigators from entering Hawkins Funeral Services at 53rd and Vine streets on Monday. However, once they gained entry, inspectors found three bodies in an unventilated room.

Southwest Detectives is investigating, and say the body of 69-year-old Harvey Vaughan was embalmed but not properly, and he was in a casket awaiting cremation.

The second body was waiting to be embalmed, and the third was found in a body bag so decomposed that they can't tell a gender. Hawkins claimed he didn't know who was in the body bag.

Then police found more.

Philadelphia Police Lieutenant John Walker explains, "There are two separate sets of organs that were found in this bag that belonged to two different people. The medical examiner is working on that to try and identify where those organs came from."

Police say there was no refrigeration unit.

The sole proprietor, John Gaither, has not been charged, but was questioned by police last night and says he was out of town and unaware of the situation.

He had this message for the families: "They deserve an apology."

Just last week a foul odor led police to three decomposing bodies in a garage owned by Powell Mortuary Services. That facility was also operating without a license.

The State Department says Hawkins did have a funeral director license with an unblemished record since 1989.

Police believe this may be about money.

Lt. Walker says, "There's money that he's not getting. And obviously not taking the steps that he should be taking because it costs money to do that, and he's probably not receiving the money he needs from the family. But again, there are requirements you have as a director to make notifications to the board that regulated this."

Regulations say bodies must be embalmed within 24 hours or refrigerated. There was little ventilation inside, mixed with this heat that made the situation much worse.

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