INDEPENDENCE, Mo. — A former funeral home director who has been sued several times for problems ranging from giving the wrong ashes to grieving families to improperly storing bodies is now facing a new lawsuit. The suit was filed in Jackson County’s Independence Courthouse Wednesday on behalf of siblings who say the funeral director needs to be held accountable.
The investigation into Marts Memorial in Westport first started with a FOX 4 News story back in December 2010, when one man suspected he’d been given the wrong ashes when his wife died. That led to more than a dozen lawsuits and those civil suits were supposed to go to trial soon, but they were recently settled out of court and the settlement can’t be disclosed.
But this story is not over yet.
Matt and Morgan Miller first talked to Fox 4 back in March of 2011, right before the state shut down Marts Memorial. They were frustrated that it took so long to get their father Ken’s ashes from funeral director Ron Marts. But then they found out their father’s body sat in the funeral home for 11 days before it even went to the crematorium, when two days is the norm.
Back then Morgan told us she was appalled: “the idea that every time we were there signing papers and when I was calling, our dad was rotting away in the back room,” she said.
Now two years later Matt and Morgan Miller have filed a lawsuit.
“Something needs to happen because what he did wasn’t okay,” Morgan says.
“Just for him to own up and come clean with the whole thing,” added her brother Matt Miller.
Morgan and Matt say to this day, they still aren’t sure whose ashes they ended up with.
“We have no way of confirming we have our dad,” says Morgan, “after all of that.”
“It’s my father. It’s somebody that I can’t ever say hi or bye to again,” Matt said. “That’s all we have left, we don’t have a place to go visit him, that’s it.”
The Millers attorney, Andy Smith, has represented more than a dozen other people who sued Ron Marts and Marts Memorial and he says he continues to get calls.
“It’s more of the same tragic stories,” Smith says.
Smith can’t talk about the cases that were settled, including Hadley Cutburth’s case. He was the first one to blow the whistle on the funeral home when he was given the wrong ashes. Records showed his wife’s body was still being cremated at the time of her funeral, even though Marts had given Cutburth this urn full of ashes. Smith says most people filing these lawsuits just want accountability.
“We can’t force them to change or apologize but we can say we will hold you accountable, what you did was wrong and you will be held responsible for it,” said Smith.
Morgan Miller says this lawsuit is all she and her brother have as a way to hold Marts accountable.
“Something to acknowledge this should not have happened,” she said.
The Marts Memorial Funeral Home in Westport was shut down by the state in March 2011 and Ron Marts lost his funeral directors license. One year ago, Marts was charged criminally with theft, deceptive business practices and selling pre-need contracts without a license. Those charges are still pending.