License of Kansas City funeral home revoked

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — At Soledad Cutburth’s funeral mass last summer, the priest blessed the ashes in the urn that stood by the altar.

About a month later — and just by accident — Cutburth’s husband, Hadley, discovered that the urn wasn’t holding her ashes. It contained hardly any ashes at all.

This week, Missouri officials revoked the licenses of the Westport funeral home and its director, who arranged Cutburth’s cremation.

Ronald Marts was ordered to shut the doors of Marts Memorial Services on Dec. 31.

Along with mishandling Cutburth’s cremation, officials said, Marts also violated state rules by selling pre-need funerals at inflated prices and without the necessary license.

And state inspectors who visited Marts Memorial Services this spring found bodies stored in a refrigerated room at 50 degrees — 10 degrees higher than allowed.

The findings against Marts and the funeral home he owns are contained in a 23-page disciplinary order issued Tuesday by the Missouri State Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors. The board is responsible for licensing the funeral industry and enforcing state rules.

Marts said Wednesday that he planned to stay in business and would appeal the license revocations.

State officials said the licenses of Marts and his funeral home already had been on probation for more than a year for violations including failure to properly refrigerate bodies, failure to file death certificates and forging an embalmer’s signature.

“Revoking the license of a funeral home is the most serious option available to our board, and we don’t take this decision lightly,” Gary Fraker, chairman of the funeral directors board, said Wednesday.

“Because Mr. Marts failed to use his probation time to correct this long list of violations, our action is necessary to prevent future consumers from becoming victims,” Fraker said.

Among the new violations state inspectors said they found this spring was an arrangement Marts had made to sell pre-need contracts through two persons who offered funeral plans at Unity Temple on the Plaza.

Consumers bought the contracts at a higher price than the charges on Marts Memorial’s general price list. Funeral homes aren’t allowed to charge more than their list price. The extra money was donated to the church, the state said.

The Rev. Duke Tufty of Unity Temple said the church had provided funeral plans for many years through Marts and other funeral homes.

The plans cost $2,000 and included cremation and a funeral service at the church, Tufty said. The two persons selling the plans received a $400 commission on each plan; the church and the funeral home split the rest, he said.

“We made sure our people were getting the best possible deal. We checked prices around town,” Tufty said. The two sales persons “are very upstanding people,” he said. “I’m absolutely sure nothing fishy was going on between them and Marts.”

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