flowers casket

Flowers sit atop a casket ahead of a funeral service in August.

When a coroner contacted Fred Parker Jr. to tell him that his late wife’s body had been left in an unrefrigerated room at a Spartanburg funeral home, he didn’t know what to say.

In fact, he still doesn’t.

“Someone, a private investigator, called and she said I just need to ask you a few questions and the next thing I know, the coroner came and met me in Saluda and they told us,” Parker said. “And it’s been messed up ever since. You wouldn’t want to do a dog that bad.”

Parker, speaking from his home in Ward, and his son filed a lawsuit against four men and two funeral homes on March 7.

Two of the men — Lawrence Robert Meadows and Roderick Mitchell Cummings — were indicted last week on separate counts of desecration of human remains.

According to the indictments, Cummings and Meadows allowed the remains of Mary Alice Pitts Moore to decompose beyond recognition in an unrefrigerated room at First Family Funeral Home in Spartanburg from March 26, 2015, to Feb. 8, 2018.

Moore, 63, died at an Anderson County hospital. Her body was sent to the funeral home’s Greenwood location for her Celebration of Life service, but the body was sent back to Spartanburg.

Cummings and Meadows kept the body because Moore’s family didn’t pay their entire bill, according to arrest warrants from the State Law Enforcement Division.

But to Parker, who was married to Moore for 38 years, it wasn’t about the bill at all. It was about doing what was right.

“I never thought something like that would have happened to her. What made it so bad was that when I would go by that funeral home in Spartanburg, they would tell me he was on the way to Greenwood. They took the body from the church to Spartanburg and left it in that closet for three years,” he said.

Moore’s wishes were to be cremated and that was what Parker and his family expected to happen after a Celebration of Life service took place at First Family Funeral Home in Greenwood.

Parker said he saw the people at First Family Funeral Home one time and did not see them again.

“I never did get to see them no more, from day one to day two. All he did was take $1,100. My daughter said she gave him $300 and I didn’t know anything about this until this came up. He never did try to contact me or anything, no nothing.”

He didn’t find out that his wife hadn’t been cremated until February, when he was contacted by Spartanburg County Coroner Rusty Clevenger and an investigator from the state Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation — the two people who found the body after a former employee reported Moore’s body being stored for an excessive period of time.

Another funeral home took care of the remains for the family.

“We’re living one day at the time. I’ll be glad when this is over,” he said. “I will be glad when it’s all behind us. We’ve been struggling ever since. Emotionally, I just ain’t right in the head anymore.”

Parker and his son are being represented by Christian Spradley of Saluda and have asked for “money as found appropriate to punish the defendants.”

Originally, Parker and his son filed suit against Darryl Jerome Mattison, Lawrence R. Meadows, Roderick M. Cummings and Zebulon Young, who were partners in First Family Funeral Home and First Family Funeral Home LLC and against Eggers Funeral Home LLC of Boiling Springs.

Eggers Funeral Home filed a motion to be dismissed from the lawsuit on July 26 and it was granted on Aug. 1, according to court records.

Mattison, Meadows, Cummings and Young filed their answers to the lawsuit on Aug. 24, denying the allegations and demanding “strict proof of each allegation.”

The state Board of Funeral Service revoked the license of First Family Funeral Home earlier this month after complaints from Moore’s family and others.

Meadows lost his funeral director’s license in April 2015 in an unrelated matter after he forged the signature and other information on a life insurance document when the person with control of the policy refused to use it to pay for funeral services, according to state records. Cummings has never had a funeral license in South Carolina, according to documents.

The maximum penalty Meadows and Cummings could receive is 10 years and a maximum fine of $5,000.

For Parker, all he wants is to get on with his life and put this chapter behind him.

“I’m still toting her picture in my wallet. I had to stop looking at it. She was a good woman. That’s all I can say,” he said. “Man, if I could get her back, oh Lord. That’s my heart. That’s my heart.”

Contact staff writer Patricia M. Edwards at 864-943-2511 or on Twitter @ijpedwards