Saturday, March 15, 2014
CINCINNATI (AP) — Dellaina Grundy isn't sure whether any of the cremated remains buried in her father's grave in a veterans cemetery are his, and she doesn't expect to ever know.
"I have had to move on, but it's something that will always be with me," Grundy said recently of the emotional pain from learning that a box of remains bearing her father's name had been found at a former funeral home director's house in Dayton.
The box with Leroy Metcalfe's name was among 55 boxes of cremated remains found there in 2012 — a decade after his family buried what they believed to be the Army veteran's ashes at Dayton National Cemetery
The Montgomery County coroner's office notified Grundy in September 2012 about the remains at a house co-owned by Scherrie McLin, former director of the funeral home that handled Metcalfe's 2002 burial. Police said a contractor removing items from the foreclosed house found the boxes in a closet.
McLin was under investigation at the time over missing funeral service money. Her director's license already had been revoked and the funeral home closed. She pleaded guilty to theft and other charges for taking thousands of dollars in prepaid funeral payments for personal use and was sentenced last year to four years in prison. None of those charges involved the remains at the house.
The coroner's office said the remains in the box labeled as Metcalfe's seemed consistent with the volume of ashes in the other boxes, and the plastic bag of remains inside the box contained the traditional metal disc with Metcalfe's name. But definite identification isn't possible.
"There is no genetic material left in cremated remains to test," said Ken Betz, coroner's office director.
The other boxes also had labels and discs, but none contained remains of anyone thought to have been buried previously.
"No family should ever experience this situation with the burial of a family member," Betz said.
Grundy had the original ashes unearthed and combined in a new urn with the boxed remains before holding a second burial service.
"I didn't know what else to do since we'll never be sure," she said.
The coroner's office says 28 of the 55 boxes of remains were released to family members, 12 other families asked the coroner to make final arrangements and 15 boxes went unclaimed. A memorial service was held months later at Dayton's Woodland Cemetery for the 27 boxes now permanently stored there.
Grundy, 50, of Fairborn, said Veterans Administration officials and others did what they could.
The VA provided a plot in another part of the veterans' cemetery and a new marble headstone since Grundy couldn't bear to return to the previous site. A friend donated a new urn, and a Dayton mortuary took care of the second burial, with Grundy paying $500 for a vault to protect the urn.
"It was like my father died all over again," said Grundy, an Air Force veteran.
Grundy doesn't visit his grave as often now. It stirs up painful memories. And while she tries not to think about McLin, she wishes there could have been punishment for what her family endured.
The Montgomery County prosecutor's office doesn't expect other charges to be brought against McLin in the case, spokesman Greg Flannagan said.
Clyde Bennett II, the attorney who represented McLin in the case involving the prepaid funeral expenses, didn't return calls seeking comment.
Metcalfe, who served in Vietnam, later worked as a research chemist in Dayton before he died of cancer. He was a quiet man who loved his family and country and never harmed anyone, Grundy said.
"My father always wanted to be cremated, so that's what we did," Grundy said. "But who would have thought this could happen?"