Crime

A funeral home owner gave a man his mother's ashes and he buried her. It wasn't mom.

John Hall Brantley
John Hall Brantley

When a son got his mother's cremated remains back from a funeral home in Wrightsville, Georgia, in January, he buried her urn in her plot at a cemetery.

About five months later, he got a phone call with some strange news: Whatever he'd buried, it was not mom. Mom's ashes were still at a crematory, and could he please pick them up?

The son called the cops, who after some investigating arrested John Hall Brantley, the owner of Brantley Funeral Home.

Police say Brantley had contracted with a crematory to handle the son's mother's remains, but somehow things went sideways.

Here's what happened, according to Scott Whitley, special agent in charge of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation office in Eastman:

In January, Brantley contracted with the son to cremate his mother. Brantley then delivered the ashes to the son and the son buried his mom's urn.

Between January and May, the crematory tried numerous times to get in touch with Brantley about remains it had cremated for his funeral home. Finally, unable to reach Brantley, the crematory tracked down the son, who was listed as next of kin.

The son did not initially understand what the call was about because "in their minds, mom has been buried," Whitley said.

The son realized that his mother's remains were not at her burial plot but at the crematory. He called the Wrightsville Police Department, which reached out to the GBI, which investigated.

The urn was disinterred from the cemetery, and a GBI medical examiner is expected to try to determine exactly what was in the urn: human cremains, something else or a mixture of both, Whitley said.

Friday, the GBI searched the funeral home. It seized some records and something unsettling: Three unlabeled containers with cremains inside.

"We are going to look at the records to see if anything in them points to something that could be fraudulent," Whitley said.

Whitley declined to release the man's name or the crematorium that Brantley outsourced the service to.

None of the crematoriums Brantley outsourced with did anything wrong, Whitley said.

Brantley has been charged with theft by deception and four counts of misidentification of remains for the unlabeled remains, all misdemeanors.

Brantley could not be reached for comment.

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