As vacated Centralia funeral home prepares for new tenant, owner makes a startling find

As vacated Centralia funeral home prepares for new tenant, owner makes a startling find

By BETH HUNDSDORFER
Capitol News Illinois
bhundsdorfer@capitolnewsillinois.com

In the basement of a Centralia funeral home in a dark hallway off the embalming room, tucked inside a nook behind two steel plates and a door, a visitor found three disembodied, neatly wrapped human legs, two of them marked with names and dated to the 1960s. 

The discovery stunned property owner Cindy Hansen, who had been cleaning up at the site of the former Moran Queen-Boggs funeral home for weeks. After all, she’d seen her last tenant evicted, his funeral director license suspended for the home’s filthy conditions – which included a dead rat in a stairwell. 

But as the shock dissipated on what first appeared to be a grisly find, a more mundane explanation materialized – the legs were likely the result of amputations, stored away decades ago until their owners died and they could be reunited and interred together, said Jay Boulanger, who has operated a funeral home in Highland for decades. 

“In those days, hospitals didn’t treat that as medical waste and cremation wasn’t popular then, so they just embalmed them and held on to them. Sometimes, people don’t get them, so they just stay,” Boulanger said.

The discovery was made at the former funeral home operated by Hugh Moran in recent years, but he surrendered his license in March after state regulators found his facility in deplorable condition. But the hidden nature of the room and the fact that two of the legs were dated decades before Moran operated the facility indicate he was not involved in placing them there.

Moran vacated the building last month, and Hansen began scrubbing and filling two large dumpsters with trash. After weeks of work, Hansen was seeing progress. 

Two casket salesmen came to pick up a display last week and asked her for a tour of the historic home with ornate oak woodwork and stained-glass windows, built by a cigar magnate in the late 1800s at the corner of South Elm and East Second streets in Centralia. 

On the tour, one salesman kept returning to that steel door in the dark hallway just off the embalming room.

“Finally, he got a pair of pliers and turned the bolt to open it,” Hansen said. “There was another plate, so he opened that, too. Then, he got to the door and looked in. He backed up and said, ‘There’s legs in there.’”

The three stood for a moment, then closed the door, returned the plates, and pondered what to do next.

“I was completely freaked out,” Hansen said.

But her shock at the situation did not raise any immediate response. She called the Illinois State Police, who called the Marion County coroner, who advised her to lock up when she left on May 7 and they would get back to her. The legs remained at the funeral home as of Tuesday, but the coroner said he will be getting them soon, Hansen said.

In late February, three days after Capitol News Illinois sent questions to the department about an unanswered December 2023 complaint that the embalming room looked “like something from a scary, filthy, freak show,” the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation inspected the building.

Inspectors didn’t disturb the steel plates blocking the nook with the legs, but they did find that Moran had maintained the embalming room in “extremely unsanitary conditions,” and he agreed to surrender his funeral director license permanently. Photographs of the room submitted with the complaint depicted a water leak, piles of dirty laundry and medical waste, along with the dead rodent. 

The conditions at Moran’s funeral home became public within months of a discovery that a Carlinville funeral home provided the wrong ashes to at least 80 families, spawning lawsuits and legislation.

Sen. Doris Turner, D-Springfield, introduced legislation called “Reestablishing Integrity in Death Care Act” after that discovery resulted in at least nine exhumations, including five from Camp Butler National Cemetery in Springfield.  No criminal charges have been filed against the funeral director responsible for those remains, August Heinz.

Senate Bill 2643 codifies best practices already in place by most funeral homes, mandating that a unique identifier must be put on the deceased’s body and any other associated human remains. Under the proposal, a director must also document the chain of custody for all bodies and human remains. 

The bill also mandates that the state must respond to complaints within 10 days and gives authority to remedy the complaints, including inspecting the funeral home premises. 

That bill is awaiting a vote in the House. 

Clean-up at the former Moran-Boggs continues.

But the name on the sign outside will soon change. Funeral Director Vonda Rosado will take over and change the name to Maxon-Rosado Funeral Home, the same as her other funeral home in DuQuoin. She plans to hire a professional to clean the embalming room.

“We want to restore the history and integrity of this beautiful facility,” she said. 

 

Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government. It is distributed to hundreds of newspapers, radio and TV stations statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, along with major contributions from the Illinois Broadcasters Foundation and Southern Illinois Editorial Association.

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