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4 bodies discovered in vacant Gary funeral home

4 bodies discovered in vacant Gary funeral home

Director's Indiana license had been revoked in 2006

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4 bodies discovered in vacant Gary funeral home
Four bodies were found recently at the Serenity Gardens Funeral Home in Gary, Ind. Northlake Church of Christ officials called the coroner's office Sunday after they discovered two bodies inside the building. (Lee News Service/JOHN LUKE)

GARY, Ind. - They were dressed to the nines for a funeral that never happened.

Two adults in an advanced state of decay, their burial clothes disintegrated around them, were among four apparently abandoned bodies found last weekend inside a vacant Gary funeral home.

One other body was found wrapped inside a corrugated cardboard cremation tray; the fourth was in a body bag atop a table.

No charges have been filed, but authorities are seeking information from the former funeral director who ran the Serenity Gardens Funeral Home, 934 E. 21st Ave., until about three years ago. The building was purchased in an April tax sale by Gary's Northlake Church of Christ, whose pastor apparently made the gruesome find.

"This is something that we have not seen before in my 20 years," said Lake County Chief Deputy Coroner Jeff Wells, who was dispatched to the former funeral home and saw the bodies. "How could somebody do this to families that have put their trust in the funeral home?"

Funeral home history

Darryl Cammack opened the funeral home in 1998, about five years before Illinois revoked his license.

He was working at a South Side funeral home in 2001 when regulators discovered he never filed a death certificate and was practicing even though his funeral director and embalmer license had expired, according to records.

"We are sorting this thing out," Cammack said in a brief phone interview Wednesday. "At this point I can't offer any comment. It'll be resolved soon."

By 2003, he was living in an apartment at the Gary funeral home, according to records. It was not clear Wednesday whether the Illinois revocation affected his Indiana license, issued in 2000.

The Lake County coroner's office is working closely with Gary police and hopes Cammack will help identify the bodies.

Indiana authorities revoked Cammack's license in 2006 after receiving complaints stretching from Wisconsin to Maryland. Families said they never received death certificates or, in one case, a headstone. Another funeral home accused him of pocketing about $5,000. A Gary woman said relatives had to help Cammack dress their dead brother's body.

The Indiana State Board of Funeral and Cemetery Service forwarded calls to director Tracy Hicks, who did not return a voice message.

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