Where is the dignity? I have shared other articles about the mass graves in Texas before. They were discovered in 2013 in Falfurrias, Texas. Some older articles are here and here. When the story broke, I was sure that after an investigation, somebody would be going to jail.
Recently an new article has come out about the mass graves on the US/Mexico border. The fact that there are mass graves in the United States should make this a front page story, but this article talks about the Texas Funeral Services Commission (TFSC) findings on the case. It says that no one is at fault and no laws were broken by any of the parties involved.
To date, 110 bodies have been exhumed from a mass grave in the Falfurrias, Texas cemetery. The exact number of victims has risen recently as it has been discovered that some of the remains had been buried 2 or 3 to a bag. Most are unidentified. Some were buried in body bags, some in garbage bags, some in shopping bags from local stores. Other bodies and body parts were put in bags, and some remains were simply piled on top of one another and dumped directly into the ground. The owner of both the cemetery and the funeral home is Service Corporation International (SCI).
Not familiar with SCI? They are the first corporate funeral giant. Without going into a whole lot of boring details, I can tell you they control 14 % of all funeral business in the United States. SCI has a 30 year history of buying family funeral homes and raising prices, charging on average, 42 percent more for funerals than their rival, local funeral homes. SCI leaves the family name on the business, making it difficult for the community to be aware of any change in ownership at all.
The most recent article states that Texas Funeral Services Commission (TFSC) concluded that the funeral home and the cemetery did not violate any rules or laws enforced by the commission. A memo from an administrator for the TFSC made these findings after a single meeting with an SCI Attorney. The author of the memo never did a site visit or talked with any of the forensic pathologists or anyone who would have on scene information. Hum. The article goes on to show the close ties between SCI’s CEO Robert Waltrip, Governor Rick Perry, and some other politically connected members of the TFSC.
Ok. I think we have an idea why this might be considered a cover up. This reeks of similar controversies that have haunted SCI over the years. In 2001, The Miami Herald reported that SCI had dug up bodies to make room for fresh burials. In 2009, The Washington Post exposed a story of SCI funeral homes, failing to properly store bodies of Veterans. Both of these cases were settled without anyone going to jail. Both of these cases show blatant disrespect for the dead. Much like the current case in Texas, SCI admitted they had a role but defended their practices as claiming they were “by the book.” In the case involving the Veterans remains, SCI defended its part by saying that Virginia does not have a body refrigerating law so, they were doing everything they could. In Texas, SCI spokesman claimed that any commingled remains were the fault of the deputy sheriff’s. They eluded that if the graves were missing markers it was due to their temporary nature.
Having been in the industry for 20 plus years, I recognize these as cop-outs, not explanations. This is about doing the least for the most monetary gain. This is about corporate businesses bending the rules when they see fit. This is about corporate money greasing the political system to allow the corporations to continue to make more money. This is about corporations doing the easy thing and then defending their practices due to poor legislation or unclear practices. This is bullshit.
When the story about the mass graves broke in 2011, SCI released the following statement. “No matter if this is one of our client families we serve on a traditional basis or a migrant family’s loved one we’re serving and we don’t have any identification of the loved one, I do want to let you know it is our policy to treat the decedent with care, to treat them just like we would treat anyone else,” Service Corporation International Spokeswoman Jessica McDunn said. She went on later to say “We believe that all human remains should be handled with dignity, care and respect.”
I am not seeing the dignity, care and respect. Even after the original wrongdoing was uncovered, I see a continuation of total disrespect for the dead. I see a sloppy, almost flagrant disregard for doing the right thing. It pains me to see the word dignity used by this corporation that serves so many in there time of need. Professionally, I am dumbfounded that any governing funeral organization/watchdog group would say that no laws were broken or no fault should be placed on any of the party’s involved.
Is this who we are? Better yet, is this who they are? We as a people can do better than this. SCI should be held accountable.
This story just keeps getting bigger. Check here often for updates.