When authorities arrived at Brock’s Home Town Funeral Home in Callaway, Fla., on Sunday afternoon, they opened the door only to be greeted by the overpowering odor of death.
And when they ventured inside, they encountered a scene even worse than the stench.
“Investigators counted six bodies being kept in the main part of the funeral home with no refrigeration at all,” the Bay County Sheriff’s Office said in a press release. Ten more were decomposing inside a “cooler” that was actually a balmy 62 degrees.
“None of the bodies had been embalmed. Those remains whose families requested cremation had not been cremated,” the sheriff’s office said.
“Flies were throughout the building.”
Authorities arrested funeral director Gregory Dunphy along with the mortuary’s manager, Felicia Boesch. They have been charged with six and ten counts of unlawful preservation and storage of human remains, respectively.
The horrific find has shocked authorities in the small panhandle city.
“I’m not aware of us having a situation like this before,” Sheriff Tommy Ford told WJHG. “The funeral home industry in Bay County is very professional and it appears that this particular funeral home was having some business and financial issues.”
The grim discovery has also outraged families who were led to believe their loved ones would be looked after.
“We were told our grandmother was already cremated and we were just waiting on a special ordered urn to arrive,” Shannon Dougherty Bailey wrote on Facebook. “Instead her body was rotting away in a freezer.”
Dunphy, 64, blamed the situation on Boesch, 39, whose father owns the funeral home, according to authorities.
“I had no say or hand in anything,” he told WJHG. “A couple times she said, ‘I’ll be in tonight, I’ll do cremations and make those remains go in the proper temperature-controlled area.’ And I have to rely on her as a person of integrity to live up to her word, which obviously she did not.”
Dunphy also claimed that he was the one who tipped off authorities.
Authorities contest both those claims, saying it was someone else who notified them of the decomposing bodies, although they admit Dunphy is cooperating with the investigation.
“These charges were appropriate because of the time that the bodies had been there and he hadn’t done anything to try to rectify that,” Bay County Sheriff’s Office Maj. Jimmy Stanford told WJHG. “So because of that time, even if he had have called it in, he would have been charged.”
Boesch could not immediately be reached for comment Thursday morning. She has declined to speak to local media. According to the sheriff’s office, Boesch “stated she did perform some cremations and then declined to answer additional questions.”
— Mike Cazalas (@PCNHmikecaz) August 17, 2016
Dunphy said he only recently started working for Brock’s.
“Felicia … asked me about three weeks ago to come over and babysit the funeral home while she was gone,” he told WJHG. The trouble began, he said, in the past week, when bodies that were supposed to be cremated began to pile up.
“She is the licensed crematory operator. I am not,” he said of Boesch. “I am strictly a licensed funeral director and embalmer.”
Dunphy claimed it wasn’t up to him where the bodies were kept and that he didn’t even have access to either the crematorium or the “cooler,” a refrigerated room where bodies that have not been embalmed must be stored according to state law.
“Just this last week things came to a head,” he told WJHG. “I went to her, as an employee to the manager, and said, ‘Hey, this situation needs to be rectified. And she said she would try to go to Alabama where her dad has cemeteries and try to get body bags or supplies and would be getting gas so the cremations could be performed. And those remains where she had had somebody placed in the chapel would be going into the refrigerated area as the cremations took place …”
“Turns out, she did not get gas … for the [furnace] to operate and because of that her refrigerated area became full,” he said. “She was responsible for the placement of the remains within the funeral home.”
As the bodies piled up in the hallway and began to bloat, Dunphy felt “trapped,” since calling authorities would shut down the funeral home and cost him his job, he said.
“I said, ‘My God, Felicia. It’s hell down here. We’ve got to do something,” he told News 13.
Defying her orders not to talk to rival funeral homes, Dunphy tried to borrow body bags or refrigerator storage space, he said.
By the third day, however, the situation inside Brock’s had become intolerable.
“At this point, you could not enter the building because there was a definite odor and there were some flies there,” he told WJHG. “It was not pleasant to be there.”
Dunphy again defied Boesch and went to the rival funeral home for advice, he said. The other owner told him he had to report the situation.
“I was torn in all kinds of directions,” Dunphy told the television station. “After a great deal of prayer,” he said he called the sheriff’s office.
“That’s why it makes me wonder why I ended up in jail,” he said. “I initiated [the investigation]. I just couldn’t stand it any longer.”
Dunphy said none of the 16 bodies discovered Sunday were supposed to be embalmed. In Florida, bodies do not need to be embalmed if they are going to be cremated.
The funeral director said he believed authorities were “trying to put together the pieces still” and he would eventually be exonerated. “I don’t feel I was justly incarcerated,” Dunphy said. “I had to do the right thing. I had to make that call. It was really tearing me apart.”
He said he was hurt by local radio hosts who called him a “horrible person.”
“I would like people to know I’m not some kind of monster,” he told WJHG. “I have always acted with full integrity and in the interests of the families over my interests and the funeral home’s interests. I would never do something like this.”
The charges against his boss, however, were “absolutely” justified, he claimed. “There is no question what she did was reprehensible.”
— Kelly Baumgarten (@KellyBaumgarten) August 15, 2016
Online, some locals blamed both Brock’s employees for the nightmarish scene inside the funeral home.
“Whistleblower or not this man sat across the desk from me held my hand while I cried and told me he would treat my brother as if he were his own brother,” Ashley Smith wrote on Facebook. “This same man is just as responsible for those he worked for letting my brother’s remains be left to decompose.
“He spent hours explaining all of the documents and why they were necessary to be in accordance with state regulations,” Smith continued. “He knew exactly what rules he was breaking every time he broke them.”
But most of the anger was reserved for Boesch.
Shannon Dougherty Bailey said she had been waiting for two months for her grandmother’s ashes when she learned what really happened to the corpse.
“The Bay County medical examiner’s office told us our grandmother’s body had been there the LONGEST and is very very badly decomposed!” she wrote. “Our family has to relive her death all over again! My children cried themselves to sleep tonight over this! We now have to come up with the money to pay another home to take care of her remains and finally put her to rest!
“This is a nightmare for us and many other families!” she added. “I hope Felicia rots in the jail just like she did to our grandmother.”
“My uncle passed away July 8,” wrote Shannon R. Luck. “They picked him up knowing they had no room for him. And now over a month later we find this out. I hope these people pay dearly for what they did.”
“How dare they treat my brothers body this way and put us through this!” added Vera Smith Green.
Luck said she would make sure that the funeral home was shut.
Several people wondered where the money had gone, if not to properly storing and disposing the bodies.
“They cheated me out of $2,000,” wrote Joanne Whitaker Rhodes.
Authorities said Dunphy and Boesch could face further charges, including theft and fraud, according to WJHG.
Several family members of those found at the funeral home said they would make sure it never reopened. But it appeared as if Boesch and her father had already conceded as much. Authorities said Brock’s had voluntarily surrendered its funeral home and cinerator, or crematorium, licenses. The owners have already begun to dismantle the business, WJHG reported.
Boesch faces 10 misdemeanor counts of unlawful storage of human remains: one for each body inside the refrigerator. Dunphy faces six similar counts, one for each body inside the funeral home.
Brock’s had previously been hit with four complaints in the past five years, including several claims that the funeral home had been slow to deliver ashes or death certificates, WJHG reported.
The bodies are currently being held by the medical examiner’s office, according to the TV station.
They, at least, will now know for sure what happened to their loved ones.
Chrissy Flynn may never know. She paid Brock’s to cremate her mother in January of 2015.
“I got some type of remains back,” she wrote on Facebook. But Sunday’s arrests had sown doubts about the ashes now sitting in her bedroom.
“What if it wasn’t even Mom?”
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