Death and Laxness

Page 4 of 4

"We never saw those remains," he says.
But the day before--on May 19--Sun Devil did receive a body from Harvey Funeral Chapel. Ray says that body was shipped to Torreon, Mexico, and appears to have been the other young Hispanic man handled by the funeral home the same day.

The final blow to Harvey's version of events centers on the May 20 service. Both Ramirez and Harvey agree that a formal, two-hour viewing and rosary officiated by a Catholic priest occurred on May 20.

Ramirez says the service began at 8:30 in the morning. Harvey says it didn't begin until the afternoon, after the body had returned from the airport.

Father Gilbert Chacon conducted Gurrola's charity service.
"I had the funeral on May 20, Thursday, at 8:30 a.m., and it's logged into my calendar," Chacon says.

Ramirez says she is preparing to file a complaint with the Arizona State Board of Funeral Directors and Embalmers over the services performed by Harvey Funeral Chapel.

"He was just lying the whole time and making up stories," Ramirez says of Harvey. "I knew he was just lying, because all these people were just Spanish-speaking."

Funeral board officials are very familiar with problems at Harvey Funeral Chapel.

In March 1997, the funeral board fined Harvey Funeral Chapel $2,098.70 for several violations, including improper accounting of payments and refusal to release a body for burial until the chapel was paid in full.

According to funeral board records, Harvey stopped a graveside service and threatened to take the body back to his funeral chapel unless the family paid $853.38 in cash.

"After collecting payment, [Harvey] proceeded with the burial," funeral board records state.

The board determined that Harvey's actions violated statutes "by dealing with funeral services customers in a [sic] unresponsive and insensitive manner" and "engaging in conduct that causes or results in disrespect to the deceased."

Problems at Harvey Funeral Chapel surfaced again last fall. The funeral board is nearly finished with an investigation stemming from a report in a Hispanic newspaper about a series of events at a funeral last September.

According to the account in Prensa Hispana that triggered the investigation, Harvey delivered an improperly prepared body to a church for a funeral service. The newspaper reported that blood was dripping from the casket as it was taken into the church.

Harvey--who once operated a funeral parlor that offered drive-through viewings--reportedly asked everyone to leave the church while he touched up the body. According to the newspaper, when the casket was reopened, a plastic bag was wrapped around the head of the body. When the bag was removed, the face appeared swollen and disfigured. Blood was running from the sides of the deceased's shirt.

The priest officiating the service demanded that the casket be closed immediately, to prevent flies from landing on the body, according to the newspaper.

Funeral board investigators say the board has finished its review of the case and has notified Harvey of the pending action. The board, however, cannot comment further on the case until the state Attorney General's Office finishes its review.

Harvey declined to comment about that investigation.

Contact John Dougherty at his online address: [email protected]

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John Dougherty
Contact: John Dougherty