POCATELLO, Idaho, Sept. 9, 2021 (East Idaho News/Gephardt Daily) — Eva Bode feels betrayed, confused and heartbroken after learning her sister was one of 12 decomposing bodies discovered Friday at Pocatello’s Downard Funeral Home on Friday.
Bode and husband Tom Henderson talked with East Idaho News from their home in Virginia.
Bode’s sister, Charlotte Ann Mygrant, died Aug. 17 at age 65. She was an inmate at the Pocatello Women’s Correctional Center and was taken to Portneuf Medical Center after suffering a severe heart attack.
“The hospital called and asked what funeral home I wanted her transferred to,” Bode told EastIdahoNews.com during a Zoom interview. “At the time, I did not know any funeral homes in Pocatello, but the hospital recommended Downard, so we went with that.”
Bode spoke with Lance Peck, the owner of Downard, the day her sister died. She said he assured her everything would be taken care of, and Mygrant’s wishes to be cremated would be fulfilled.
“I gave him the information for the correctional center, and he said he had worked with them before, so he wouldn’t have any problems,” Bode recalled. “I had to give him the information for the death certificate, and we planned for him to send her ashes to us in Virginia.”
Bode and Peck spoke the next day, Wednesday, Aug. 18. But she didn’t hear anything from him the rest of the week, so she called him again on Monday, Aug. 23.
“I asked him if there was any way we could have Charlotte’s remains mailed to me that week because of the holiday weekend coming up. We wouldn’t have mail on Monday, and one of us had to be home in order to sign for it,” Bode said. “He said that he was going to run across the street to the lady at the post office because she would be able to answer if he shipped her body on Thursday whether we would get it Friday or Saturday.”
Peck never called Bode back, so she reached out to him again on Wednesday, Sept. 1 – the two-week anniversary of her sister’s death. He was driving and said he would return her call when he got to his office, but she never heard from him.
“Up until then, we thought things were progressing along, and she would be cremated and arriving that weekend,” Henderson, her husband, said. “On Friday, she went online looking for an alternate phone number (for the funeral home), and she found all the information about what was happening. That’s when she called me and told me to look up Downard Funeral Home.”
Police were at the facility that morning, Sept. 3, executing a search warrant. They found 12 decomposed bodies and around 50 fetuses. Bode and Henderson weren’t sure how to process the news.
“This is stuff you only see on TV. I was very upset because Lance made me feel like he was really genuine, caring and really taking care of this,” Bode said. “To find this out on the internet was unbelievable.”
A few hours later, Bode received a call from the Bannock County Coroner’s Office telling her Mygrant’s body was inside Downard. Correctional center paperwork in her body bag and a hospital bracelet, still attached to her arm, was used to identify her. Mygrant had not been embalmed or cremated.
“He didn’t do anything. It’s just frustrating. He promised he was going to take care of her and he didn’t. What was this guy thinking?” Bode said through tears.
Mygrant’s remains have been transferred to Wilks Funeral Home in Chubbuck, and Bode has filed a police report. She and her husband want Peck to lose his license and hope he is criminally charged.
“I wish no harm on anyone, but gosh darn it, it doesn’t seem like he should be in a position to continue operating,” Henderson said. “Something has to be done to make sure this doesn’t happen to anyone else. We’re angry, but we don’t know what to do with the anger.”
Peck has made no public statements, and EastIdahoNews.com has made numerous attempts to talk with him. As of Thursday, he has not been charged, but police continue to investigate. Seven of the 12 decomposing bodies found inside Downard Funeral Home have been identified. Bode and Henderson say their hearts go out to the families of the other five.
They look forward to finally receiving Mygrant’s remains – a woman Bode describes as someone who “walked a different road than others,” but she got along with everyone.
“I can’t believe this is happening. I really want this to end, and I just want her back. I want her here,” she said, wiping her eyes.
Idaho State University
The dozens of fetuses found decomposing at Downard Funeral Home were donated to Idaho State University for educational purposes. ISU released the following statement:
“The fetuses recovered last week from Downard Funeral Home have been positively identified as remains that were donated to Idaho State University for educational purposes as part of a decades-old biology collection showing fetal development. This collection was transferred to Downard Funeral Home for cremation in April 2017.
“During the course of this week’s investigation by the Pocatello Police Department, Idaho State learned for the first time that the fetuses were never cremated by the funeral home.
“In 2016, the Idaho Legislature passed the Idaho Unborn Infants Dignity Act, Idaho Code 39-9306, which generally prohibits public institutions from using unborn infant remains or embryonic stem cells for research or study. After determining the biology collection likely fell under the purview of the new law prohibiting its educational use, the University reached out to Downard Funeral Home for assistance with cremation and final disposition, as allowed by law. In April 2017, Downard Funeral Home picked up the collection containing 61 fetuses, the majority of which were donated to ISU prior to 1981 and did not contain any new donations beyond 1998.
“Idaho State’s relationship with Downard Funeral Home ended in May 2020. An internal audit last fall of all records and dealings with Downard Funeral Home indicated multiple causes for concern. The University filed formal complaints with the Bannock County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, the Pocatello Police Department, and the Idaho Division of Occupational and Professional Licenses. At no time during the University’s internal audit was it discovered that the fetal remains were never cremated.
“Idaho State has been proactive and cooperative in ongoing discussions with state agencies and local law enforcement.”