LEWISTON – When Joan Bouchard died last November with her family by her side, the survivors would never have imagined they’d need to phone the police
LEWISTON – When Joan Bouchard died last November with her family by her side, the survivors would never have imagined they’d need to phone the police to find her body.
But after turning her over to Affordable Cremations Solutions of Lewiston, a business whose license has since been suspended, that’s exactly what son Troy Bouchard wound up doing.
“They grabbed my mother’s body,” Bouchard said Thursday, and days went by while they dodged his calls about retrieving her remains and securing a death certificate.
He said he finally got so frustrated that he called the Lewiston police to ask for “a welfare check on a dead body,” a dramatic twist on a routine request for officers to see if somebody who can’t be reached is doing OK.
Bouchard said the police called and were told that everything was fine. But he still doubted it.
He said he phoned the business again and asked the person who answered the phone, “What are you guys doing? Just stacking the bodies up?”
He was told that would be disrespectful and certainly not the case.
“Come to find out, that’s exactly what they were doing,” said Bouchard, whose family got a funeral home to retrieve the ashes in December but is now wondering if they wound up with the right remains.
Affordable Cremations and its owner, Kenneth Kincher, have both had their funeral licenses suspended by the state Board of Funeral Service since June 14. The lawyer for Kincer and the company has declined to comment on the charges.
The state of Maine closed down Affordable Cremations in Lewiston and pulled its license after finding stinking, unrefrigerated bodies. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal
A hearing is slated for next Tuesday to consider the charges but a consent decree that is expected to be approved would postpone the hearing without lifting the suspension. The hearing officer, Mark Terison, said in a July 7 memorandum that if the board accepts the decree, the suspension would remain in place until a hearing is held.
The board accused Kincer and his Main Street cremation business of unprofessional conduct and creating a public health problem by mishandling the remains of customers.
A state investigator in June found “an odor of decomposition” and the unrefrigerated remains of 11 people in the basement of the establishment, as well as “reddish brown fluid” that appeared to flow down a drain.
The order of immediate suspension that followed said that Kincer’s records were in “complete disarray” and that the state board had received many calls from people like Bouchard “trying to gain possession of their loved ones’ remains,” some of them “very upset” that they were having no luck.
The bodies were stored in unrefrigerated space and one of them wasn’t even in a body bag because the corpse was too large to fit. It sat in an unsealed box, the state investigator found.
Bouchard said the lesson he learned is “it doesn’t pay to go cheap” since things can go so poorly. “We got my mother’s ashes, but we’re not even 100% sure it’s her. That’s no way to treat the deceased.”
Terison said in his July 7 order that Kincer and Affordable Cremation have signed a proposed consent decree that provides for the indefinite suspension of their licenses pending a hearing on the charges sometime in the future.
The idea is for all pending matters involving the parties to be consolidated “in a more efficient manner in one hearing.”
The funeral board will consider whether to agree to the consent deal when it meets at 9 a.m. Tuesday for its regular meeting. An adjudicatory hearing about the Lewiston business that’s slated for 9:30 a.m. will likely be postponed.
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