Wednesday, June 29, 2016

TOP STORY >> Funeral director is found innocent

Leader senior staff writer

It took a jury of eight women and four men about an hour late Tuesday afternoon to acquit former Arkansas Funeral Care director Edward Snow, 61, of Cabot, of eight abuse-of-corpse charges in Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza’s court.

Abuse of a corpse is a Class C felony, and Snow faced up to 80 years in prison and $80,000 in fines if convicted.

The defense rested without calling witnesses.

The jury was left to determine whether or not the apparent neglect of eight corpses at the Jacksonville funeral home rose to standard of abuse of a corpse and if so, whether Snow or owner Leroy Wood and his son Rodney were ultimately responsible for actions taken.

Leslie Stokes, then an investigator for the state Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors, found corpses in various state of decay when she entered the business in early January 2015.

Her affidavit read in part, “There is evidence of multiple bodies stored outside of the cooler over a period of time in January…Bodies were stacked on top of one another, on pallets, on the washer and dryer and on every available space they could find.

“Coffee cans with deodorizer were placed next to bodies to help with the odor in the room.”

Wood, 87, of Jacksonville and his son Rodney, 62, of Heber Springs, accepted a plea agreement, avoiding both prison and a fine, although the business was fined $50,000.

Snow declined a plea deal that would have included prison time.

In closing statements, the defense attorney Lee Short argued that neglect does not meet the standard of abuse of a corpse, while Pulaski County Deputy Prosecutor Tonia Acker, armed with gruesome 8x10 color photographs, argued that’s exactly what it is.

Under Arkansas law, it would be abuse of a corpse were handled:

“In a manner offensive to a person of reasonable sensibilities” (including) without limitation the dismembering, submerging or burning of a corpse.

Short added that it requires an affirmative action on the part of the person alleged to have committed it.

He argued that failing to cremate, embalm or bury a body is not such an affirmative action.