A former funeral home director who stashed 12 bodies and the cremated remains of 40 other people in public self-storage facilities in the Boston area has been sentenced to three to five years in prison.
Joseph V. O’Donnell, 57, will also have to serve five years probation after being released from prison and pay back former funeral-home customers.
In some cases, O’Donnell sent the wrong remains to some families. In other cases, he merely stored remains in two self-storage facilities located just outside the city of Boston.
In all, O’Donnell pleaded guilty to 49 charges, including the theft of about $150,000 from 31 people who pre-paid for their funerals.
At a court hearing yesterday in Boston, O’Donnell tried to explain his actions to the relatives and loved ones of the deceased.
“I know that there’s nothing that I can say here today that will assuage the pain or the grief that I have caused,” the Boston Globe quoted O’Donnell as saying during the hearing. “Desperation led me to make terrible decisions. I never wanted any of this to happen.”
While some family members said they could forgive O’Donnell, others harshly criticized him for the mishandling of bodies and cremated remains, later causing relatives intense anguish when they learned what O’Donnell had actually done.
Last year, police, who were acting on larceny complaints by some of O’Donnell’s customers, searched a U-Haul self-storage facility (pictured at top) in Somerville, Mass, just north of Boston, and found the cremated remains of at least 40 people, all contained in individual “packages” with apparent identification tags on each of them.
It gets worse
The next day, police came upon a more shocking find at a Public Storage facility in nearby Weymouth, Mass.: Twelve decomposing bodies within coffins and “heavy boxes” apparently used to store bodies before cremation.
The grisly discoveries sparked calls for funeral-home reforms and the handling of bodies in Massachusetts, though no new laws have been passed yet by lawmakers.
Though he allowed his funeral-director license to lapse in 2008, O’Donnell continued to oversee hundreds of burials, cremations, and funerals, until he was arrested last summer, prosecutors say.