Ashes Mishandled by Cemetery, Suits Allege
A class-action suit was filed Tuesday against a Pomona cemetery alleging that crematorium workers illegally mixed ashes in a trash can and then dumped the remains in a vacant lot.
The suit, filed in Pomona Superior Court on behalf of relatives of the deceased, also alleges that workers at Pomona Valley Memorial Park mutilated corpses to extract gold dental work before cremation. Two people whose relatives were cremated at the cemetery filed a separate suit Tuesday, making the same allegations.
John Lemons, general manager of the Pomona Valley Cemetery Assn., said Tuesday that he had not been served with the suits and could not comment on them. But Lemons said the association, which operates the cemetery, denies any impropriety in handling human remains.
“It’s the association’s viewpoint that our procedures are correct and in line with standard cemetery practice,” Lemons said, reading from a prepared statement. He said he was not aware of any gold fillings being illegally removed from corpses.
Atty. Thomas E. Frankovich, who filed the suits, alleges that the improper disposal of ashes may involve as many as 20,000 corpses dating back to 1961. The suits seek unspecified punitive and compensatory damages.
The state Cemetery Board launched an investigation into practices at Pomona Valley Memorial Park in May, after three former cemetery employees charged that the illegal dumping and mixing of ashes was common. The board forwarded its findings to the state attorney general’s office last month.
Deputy Atty. Gen. Sande Pond said Tuesday that she is continuing to investigate the allegations.
The mixing of ashes of human remains is a misdemeanor under state law, Pond said. The attorney general’s office can prosecute the matter as a licensing violation rather than a criminal offense, however.
Possible penalties for mixing human ashes range from probation to revocation of the cemetery’s license.
The three former employees, who lost their jobs earlier this year, said remains were mixed because the urns used by the cemetery were too small to hold all the ashes resulting from most cremations. The excess ashes were placed in a 20-gallon trash can, which was dumped periodically into holes on a nearby vacant lot then owned by the cemetery, they said. The 18-acre lot was sold last year to Lewis Homes of California. The Upland-based developer has begun grading the site to build 90 homes.