Former Dorchester funeral director Joseph V. O'Donnell, 56, was indicted today on charges of keeping a dozen decomposed bodies in a self-storage facility and with embezzling funds meant to pay for funerals and forgery, the Suffolk County District Attorney's office reports.
Although the improper disposal of bodies is more gruesome, it's the charges of forgery and larceny from a person over 60 that could put him away for a long time: Each count carries a possible sentence of 10 years in prison, the DA's office says. In contrast, storing bodies in a storage unit is a misdemeanor - as is acting as a funeral director without a license.
The DA's office, Boston Police and the state's chief medical examiner were able to identify 11 of the 12 bodies stacked in a Wemouth storage unit. The 12th body, that of a woman, remains unidentified. All died between 2009, when O'Donnell's license lapsed, and 2013, when his funeral home was foreclosed, the DA'soffice reports, adding that O'Donnell initially gave the families of eight of those dead people ashes belonging to other dead people.
In addition to charges related to the disposal of the bodies, O'Donnell is also charged with stealing $150,000 in funeral pre-payments, forger and acting as a mortician in more than 200 funerals and cremations even though he no longer had a license.
O'Donnell was licensed to practice as a funeral director in Massachusetts until his license lapsed in late 2008. Between the end of a licensing grace period that expired in early 2009 and the foreclosure of his Neponset Avenue funeral home in 2013, however, prosecutors allege that he accepted payments for and played a role in at least 201 funerals, burials, and cremations; forged signatures on related certificates of death and cremation; and took advance payments for an additional 31 "pre-need" contracts from older adults making end-of-life plans. The price of those contracts was as much as $7,000, totaling $149,096.22, and should have been placed in a trust for use when the client passed away. Instead, when asked by investigators where this money was, O'Donnell allegedly said, "It's all gone." ...
In the course of their investigation, authorities executed search warrants at two storage facilities rented by O'Donnell. One, in Somerville, yielded 45 sets of cremated remains, many of which were decades old and are believed to be unclaimed remains previously stored at the shuttered Neponset Avenue funeral home. The other, in Weymouth, led to the discovery of 32 additional sets of cremated remains and 12 human bodies in various states of decomposition.