Donated cadavers go unreceived at Idaho State University, police investigating funeral home

Local News

POCATELLO, Ida. (ABC4) – Idaho State University has yet to receive a donation intended for education purposes. Authorities say the donation – numerous bodies intended to serve as cadavers – have been found at a funeral home that was responsible for facilitating the donations.

The Idaho State Journal reports police found several dead bodies and fetuses in a Friday search of Downward Funeral Home, located in Pocatello, about 164 miles north of Salt Lake City. During their search, detectives say they found bodies in varying states of decomposition.

As of Friday, Pocatello Police say no charges have been filed in the investigation.

“We know there are a lot of unanswered questions about the case. Our department has those same questions. I want to assure the families involved and the public that the men and women of the Pocatello Police Department will be working hard to provide the answers,” Pocatello Police Chief Roger Schei says.

Police say some of the bodies have been positively identified and are now in the custody of local funeral homes, which will attempt to contact the next of kin. Bodies that were not identified have been removed from Downward Funeral Home and are now in the custody of the Bannock County Coroner.

It is currently unclear why the bodies and fetuses were being kept at the funeral home, police say.

The Idaho State Journal reports Idaho State University has had a relationship with Downward Funeral Home to receive cadavers. When the funeral home failed to deliver donations during multi-year periods, Idaho State spokesperson Stuart Summers tells the Idaho State Journal the university entered into a relationship with the University of Utah to receive anatomical body donations.

In May 2020, Idaho State ended its relationship with Downward Funeral Home.

“When (ISU) began working with Wilks Funeral Home, the university notified individuals who had filed an intent-to-donate form of the change. In the process, the university learned some families believed the remains of their deceased loved ones had already been donated to Idaho State University through Downard Funeral Home, but the university had no records of these donations,” Summers told the newspaper.

He tells the outlet after the university returned five anatomical donations to the funeral home in 2017, one family reached out, four years later, saying they had not received their loved one’s remains from the funeral home. Summers tells the Journal the university reviewed its records and found “multiple causes of concern.” That is when they alerted law enforcement.

According to the Associated Press, Lance Peck, who purchased the funeral home in 2007, surrendered his license to operate the business on Sept. 1. The Idaho State Journal says documents they obtained from the Idaho Division of Occupational and Professional Licenses outline details related to missing bodies intended to be donated from Downard to Idaho State University’s anatomical donation program.

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