LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Bodies stacked on top of each other, unrefrigerated bodies, and poor record-keeping were just some of the problems discovered at a Henderson mortuary that resulted in the state suspending its license to operate for the next six months.
Hites Funeral Home and Crematory on West Sunset Road came under scrutiny Tuesday during a hearing before the Nevada Funeral and Cemetery Services Board, which ultimately voted 6-1 to suspend its license.
Until the issues came to light, the home had a contract to be on rotation with other funeral homes to pick up and hold bodies for the Clark County Coroner’s Office, who had stopped using them over a month ago.
Hites funeral director Eric Lee said during the COVID-19 surges, his staff would pick up from 30 to 40 bodies a day from the coroner. However, they can only cremate eight a day.
The home also dealt with a lot of cases where families couldn’t pay for services and the cost was covered by Clark County Social Services.
The funeral home has been on probation since early 2021 following a series of complaints.
These complaints included storing too many bodies and storing them for an extended period of time, unsanitary and unprofessional conditions, and discrepancies in the funeral home’s records when it came to the spelling of names of decedents and dates of death.
Hites was put on notice to correct the issues or face suspension.
“These are isolated incidents,” Lee told the board. He said he had struggled because he didn’t have enough staff.
During an unannounced inspection at Hites on July 20, Jennifer Kandt, executive director of the state’s funeral board, noted there were “3 bodies stacked on one gurney” and that the three coolers — where bodied are stored — were at or near capacity and there was stacking of bodies. The limit is 232 bodies in the facility.
Her report said an unembalmed body was on a gurney in the hallway. “The sheet over the body was soiled with blood, there were flies landing on the body and an intense odor.”
She also reported a baby’s body awaiting cremation “in a tray sitting askew on top of another tray.”
Lee, who was at the funeral home on the day of the inspection, was asked if he noticed some of these issues were occurring.
“I was as surprised as she was seeing it,” he said.
“I am appalled. All I heard from Mr. Lee was excuses,” said board member Andy Garcia. “You failed all of us.”
The suspension is effective immediately. Lee is required to give the state an inventory of the bodies in his care and 30 days to either bury or cremate the bodies. After that point, any remaining bodies will be moved to another mortuary and the families will be refunded their money.
The board says unannounced visits will be conducted at the funeral home over the next month to make sure those deadlines are being met.
After receiving the suspension, Lee hinted he might sell the business.