WAUKEGAN (CBS) – A funeral director accused of giving bereaved families the wrong cremated remains has pleaded guilty in a cover-up of the fraud and is expected to spend months behind bars.
Marcee Dane, 32, of Libertyville pleaded guilty to desecration of human remains, a violation of the Cemetery Protection Act and a Class 3 felony, a release from the Lake County State’s Attorney’s office said.
Prosecutors said Dane tried to cover up a mix-up involving a family’s ashes by first lying to the family, then getting another person’s remains and sending the family those remains to cover the mistake.
Dane even went so far as to exhume cremains and remove an identification tag in case either family discovered the error and chose to exhume the cremains, authorities said.
On Thursday, Dane was sentenced to six months in the Lake County Jail, with the first 30 days to be served immediately, the release said. The remaining five months will be served as periodic imprisonment to be monitored by the Lake County Sheriff’s office.
The mixup began in May 2010 when the Burnett-Dane Funeral home inadvertently switched the cremated remains of two unrelated people, whose families had used the funeral home.
Burnett-Dane buried the cremains of one person in the other’s family plot in a cemetery in Des Plaines, the release said. The funeral home then compounded the mistake by giving the cremains — which should have been buried in the cemetery — to the other family. That family spread what they believed to be their loved one’s cremains over a Wisconsin lake.
But before the family spread the ashes, they became suspicious that they might have had the wrong cremains and contacted Dane by phone, the release said. Dane assured them they had the right cremains, which led to their eventual spreading.
Meanwhile, Dane attempted to cover up the mix-up by obtaining the cremains of someone from a crematory in Lake Bluff.
She mailed that person’s cremains to the family in Wisconsin, telling them the ashes were their loved one’s correct ashes. Dane then unearthed the cremains from the Des Plaines cemetery and removed the ID tag, the release said.
As a condition of her sentence, Dane will surrender her Funeral Director’s License and forfeit her right to practice as a professional in the death care industry, the release said. She will not be allowed to work at the family business or be on the property for any reason during her probationary period.
Dane must also pay a fine of $10,000 to be applied toward Crime Stoppers of Lake and Cook counties, the release said. She has no prior criminal convictions.
Contributing: Sun-Times Media Wire