Shelby County family files suit in crematory case

A Shelby County man has joined the growing number of families suing a Georgia crematory and its owner for allegedly stockpiling the bodies of their deceased loved ones.

As of presstime Tuesday, authorities had discovered 331 uncremated bodies scattered about the grounds of Tri-State Crematory Inc., and the home of its owner Ray Brent Marsh.

Marsh has been held in a Walker County, Ga., jail since Feb. 17 on charges of 16 counts of theft by deception for allegedly accepting bodies for cremation and leaving them to decompose.

Seventy corpses have been postively identified so far, one of them as that of Paula Lynn Dean, 45, who died Feb. 7 after a year-long bout with leukemia.

Dean’s brother, Anthony Ganier of Shelby County, has filed suit against Tri-State and Marsh, as well as the funeral home that contracted with the crematory to dispose of her body.

Ganier is joined by another sister, Jennifer Kilbourne of Jefferson County, and his nephew, Joel Steelman of Chattanooga, in the lawsuit filed last week in the Superior Court of Walker County, Ga. Steelman is Dean’s son.

The lawsuit, which asks for an unspecified amount in damages, claims Ganier and his family suffered &uot;mental anguish, severe emotional distress and other pecuniary losses&uot; at the hands of Marsh as well as the funeral home.

&uot;The defendents did not provide proper crematory services, but instead disposed of the body of Ms. Dean on its premises in an inhumane, outrageous and disrespectful manner,&uot; the lawsuit states.

Matt Minner, an attorney with the Birmingham law firm representing Ganier and his family, said the funeral home, Covenant Funeral Service, exercised &uot;gross professional negligence&uot; by not following through on its promises to the family to have Dean properly cremated.

&uot;The funeral home absolutely has a duty to know about the crematory it does business with,&uot; he said.

He said the discovery of Dean’s body at the crematory has added to the grief over their loved one’s untimely death.

&uot;The family is still trying to grieve over the loss of Ms. Dean, and for something like this to happen is a tragedy,&uot; he said