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State Files Show Other Complaints Against Funeral Home

State Files Show Other Complaints Against Funeral Home

By Phil Williams. CREATED Jul 19, 2013 - UPDATED: Mar 11, 2014

COLUMBIA, Tenn. -- What was really going on inside a Maury County funeral home?

Just days after NewsChannel 5 Investigates revealed disturbing claims against the Williams Funeral Home, new information raises even more questions about how it treated the dead and the living.

The initial allegations were filed in court and in a complaint with the state board that regulates funeral homes.

But the state's own files show that this isn't the first time that Williams Funeral Home has faced such allegations. In fact, the files raise questions about some of the answers we were given.

Some of the more disturbing allegations against Williams Funeral Home involve how it treated the dead following a fire that leveled its longtime facility in April 2012.

The funeral home re-opened for a year inside a historic Columbia house.

As we recently revealed, a sworn affidavit from former employee Raymond Workman -- who now works for a competitor -- claimed that owner Alan "Blevins accepted bodies knowing that he lacked the proper refrigerated storage facilities."

The affidavit added: "For a time, he stacked boxes with putrefying remains in an unrefrigerated back room."

Blevins told us the charges are false.

"We had to store people there, but only within the laws of the state of Tennessee -- hold them eight hours and then either take them to refrigeration units or crematory," he said.

"Did you have more bodies than you could reasonably handle?" NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked.

"No, sir, we did not," he answered.

But the licensure files show another former employee, Blake Carroll, made similar complaints last August.

He reported that remains were being kept in an unlocked cooler inside a shed at Polk Memorial Gardens and, when there was no room there, unembalmed remains were kept at the temporary funeral home "for days."

In a written response, Blevins acknowledged, "From time to time, we have had to wait until the space was available to move them to the cooler."

When the complaint came before the funeral board, it was essentially Carroll's word against the word of Blevins, who also claimed the man was a disgruntled employee.

The funeral board closed that complaint, saying it would be up to the former employee to come up with proof.

Then, there's the sworn testimony of former employee Mike Andrews, who claimed Williams Funeral Home once sent him to East Tennessee to buy what were essentially junk caskets.

"They just didn't look like something that I would want to use for my family, I'll put it that way," Andrews said in a video deposition filed with the court.

Blevins downplayed Andrews' testimony, saying that he had been forced out for misconduct.

"Mr. Andrews, he was 80 years old when he left our employment. He was asked to leave his employment for -- I'll tell you later why," he said.

But the funeral board's files show the former employee had to file a complaint against Blevins to get his name off the Williams Funeral Home website.

In his response, Blevins claimed Andrews' departure was just a semi-retirement, adding: "It was our understanding that he may make himself available to assist if we ever were in a bind and needed extra help."

The funeral board files also show that Blevins signed a consent order back in January and agreed to pay a $750 penalty for overcharging families.

That came after an inspector spot-checked the funeral home's files and found three cases where families had been double charged for funeral director services on three cremations.

Blevins called the overcharges an "inadvertent error."

The funeral home owner has insisted that these allegations are all false.

He claimed this controversy is all being stirred up by a competitor.

In the end, it's a matter that will be up to the courts and the funeral board to sort out.

Phil Williams

Phil Williams

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Phil Williams is chief investigative reporter for NewsChannel 5's nationally award-winning investigative team. His investigations have earned him journalism's highest honors.