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Police Investigate Funeral Home In West Philadelphia

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Police are investigating a report that a funeral home was operating without a license in West Philadelphia.

Police responded to Hawkins Funeral Services near Vine and 53rd Streets Monday afternoon.

Within minutes, authorities say detectives discovered three bodies. One was in a coffin, the other two were decomposing, according to police.

Police are questioning the funeral director.  While he is licensed to be a funeral director, police say the building is not licensed.

"I'm responsible for the bodies that are being taken care of in there," the funeral director told CBS 3 Eyewitness News.

But he insisted several times, police have it all wrong.

"There is a misunderstanding. One of the bodies we picked up from the home and apparently the doctor didn't sign so it's going back to the medical examiner," he said.

The funeral home has been in the neighborhood for years, operating under several different names. The funeral director came in a few months ago.

Eyewitness News learned two bodies were not embalmed and started decomposing several days ago. Detectives also say the temperature was much higher than the required 40 degrees.

"These conditions are deplorable. It's unacceptable behavior," said Philadelphia Police Lt. John Walker.

"People bring their family members here to be buried and you got decomposed bodies there. That's not right," said a neighbor.

"It's disturbing. I'm in shock because I had a close friend buried here," said another neighbor.

Detectives also told Eyewitness News when they arrived, a death certificate for one of the bodies was missing.

"These families know what is going on and I assure them that I would follow through with them," said the funeral director.

Department of State detectives are also investigating. The Department of State deals with licenses and disciplinary action.

The place is closed until further notice.


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