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Home >Online Support Ask The Experts > Ron Troyer

Ron Troyer (Funeral Director)

My sister-in-law Kim was murdered last March, 1998, by her husband, who then turned the gun on himself. They have two young boys who did see their father kill their mother. My mother-in-law had decided to place Kim "next to" her husband, Glenn, in the cemetery, for the sake of the boys. My mother-in-law has changed her mind now and has purchased two plots within the same cemetery, (for herself and Kim) and wanted to move Kim. We have now found out from the Health Dept. here in Michigan that she doesn't have a right to do that. Since there are children involved, it would go to them, and since they are minors, the guardians are actually in the position to approve or disapprove this. Is that true?

There are unfortunately no easy answers to your situation. You are faced with dealing with the rules and regulations of the cemetery and the laws of the State of Michigan. As a family, with no opportunity for rehearsal, you did the best you could when Kim was murdered. She was buried in what seemed to be the best spot for her surviving children.

It is easy to understand Kim's mother's wish to relocate her to another spot in the Cemetery. However, you will find this difficult to accomplish without cooperation from Glenn's family. My suggestions are to check on the following;

  • Does the Cemetery require a disinterment-reinterment permit (issued by the local government) to move a body within the Cemetery? In some States a body can be relocated within the cemetery without a permit. However, permission would be required from the next of kin.
  • Another option you said you don't want to pursue is to get a court order allowing you to move Kim to another area. I would encourage you to rethink this. Michigan has a strong system of Victim Rights Advocates program. I think with their help you could make a good case why Kim should be in a grave where her mother could be buried beside her.
  • If you could gain obtain guardianship of the boys, you would be in the driver's seat to make the change you are seeking. I would encourage you to be alert to how the boys are being cared for. If there is an indication of negligence on the part of the present guardians, you could refile for hearing on custody.
  • I wish there was an easy was to resolve your situation. Seeking advice from an understanding attorney will help you sort out your legal options. Please know that there is support for your family in a POMC support group. They will understand how deeply you feel about this matter.

    -Ron Troyer, Funeral Director

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    Our son was murdered almost 10 years ago. His remains have not been found though they may be this year. One of the killers confessed last year and tried to find the site, but could not due to changes in the terrain. The other killer has pled not guilty to aggravated murder and is pending trial in the fall of 2000. There is a possibility the other killer may be able to locate the site. Our son died by strangulation and was buried '"chest deep" in a forested area. Do you know what is customarily done when remains are found after this length of time as far as having a funeral/memorial service/burial are concerned? Thank you most kindly for your help.

    I am hopeful you will recover the remains of your son. Even though ten years have gone by, you would find some element of closure by having a service and burial of his remains. There will be remains (bone) that can be recovered. There might be some delay between recovery and your being able to have possession for services and final interment. This would depend upon what the Police need for evidence in a trial and a Medical Examiner investigation. Once you know that time frame, a service and burial in a cemetery could be arranged. Your sons remains could be placed in a container smaller than a casket for burial. I helped one family do this and the family built their own wood box for burial. The Medical Examiner could tell you what size is needed. A permit for burial will be needed by the cemetery and a local funeral director could help with this. If recovery takes place I would encourage you as a family to participate in services. Finally being in control of what happens to your sons remains is important and therapeutic. Placing a monument or marker at his grave gives you the opportunity to remember and memorialize the goodness of his life and your love for him. I hope this helps.

    -Ron Troyer, Funeral Director

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    Can a funeral director refuse a request by a immediate family member to view the deceased? Are there any circumstances in which a funeral director would have the right to refuse a mothers' request to view her child? Given the assumption that the deceased belongings/property accompany him from the coroner's office to the funeral home, does the funeral director have an obligation to give these belongings to the custodial parent (if the deceased is a minor)?

    The questions posed are a challenge to answer without all the facts being stated. It leaves me having to guess at some of the details of the experience. I would have to speculate that the funeral director in question refused to allow a family member to view the deceased. This may have been done out of real concern for the family which has been traumatized by a sudden, violent death. The funeral director may have believed that viewing a body (badly damaged by violence) would cause additional trauma to the family. It is my practice to describe the condition of the body to the immediate family and then give them time to decide if they want to view. I would not refuse a request by an adult family member to view after being given a detailed description of the condition of the body. I know from years of practice that viewing some part of the body is very important in working towards a healthy recovery. Question two asks what circumstances would allow the right to refuse the mother's request to see the child. The funeral home in question may have a policy on public viewing of the body. Most funeral homes require the body to be embalmed for a public viewing. A private viewing by a mother can be accommodated in most circumstances. I have never had a circumstance in 32 years which would have prevented me from a private viewing by a mother who insisted on viewing after a description of the condition of the body is given. Without knowing the details, it would be difficult to further answer this question.

    Question three asks if property would be given to the immediate family by the funeral home if it accompanied the body to the funeral home. My policy is to describe to the family what property/belongings accompany the body. Family members are given time to decide what they want returned to them. If clothing is soiled or damaged, we will dispose of it if requested to. These answers may not be what you are looking for. I believe most funeral homes would try hard to be compassionate and comforting to a family who experienced a violent death. Sometimes funeral directors do things thinking they are helping (no viewing, for example) and not wanting to cause more pain to a traumatized family. If this occurred, I encourage you to put in writing your feelings and send them to the funeral director.

    -Ron Troyer, Funeral Director

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    A few questions I need help with, please? My son passed away in May, 1999, he was found in the river after being missing almost 4 days. No autopsy was done. They said no need, that he drowned. I don't know how they could tell this just from blood work? Anyway, I was trying to get answers cause I don't think this was an accident. So I exhumed his body after 3 months, hired a forensic pathologist, only to have her tell me he was in a bag and the bag was filled with water. He was not embalmed the right way, if at all, and there was cotton and duck tape all around him. Why? They didn't even dress him. They promised us! She said she didn't see any reason why he wasn't. The autopsy report was terrible. Things not done correctly, as promised. Can you tell me any reason why water would be in there? Or why he wasn't embalmed the right way? Is this what funeral homes do to people? Thank you for your time, and also, the right clothes weren't even in the bag with him!

    I cannot answer your questions about how your son was cared for by the funeral home in question. I do know the answers you seek are important. You should ask your questions directly to the funeral home or have an attorney ask the questions for you. I know if I tell a family I will do something I do it. If you feel you were mistreated, you should take steps to correct it. Your son's tragic death and your recovery will only become more complicated unless you find the truthful answers to questions. You may get help in the state you live by contacting the License Board for Funeral Directors.

    They would regulate the actions of funeral homes and can penalize if improper acts have been done.

    I wish you well in your pursuit of the truth.

    -Ron Troyer, Funeral Director

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    Is there any reason why a funeral director would be instructed either by the FBI or medical examiner not to allow family to see body? And be told that under no condition should this body even be brought inside the funeral home?

    I have been a funeral director for 32 years in a metro area. I have never been told by the FBI, police or medical examiner not to allow a family to see the body. I have never been told under no condition should a body even be brought inside the funeral home. However there might be circumstances I am unaware of that could make this happen. I believe the answer must come from those who gave you this information. If you're unable to find out an acceptable answer then consult an attorney for assistance.

    -Ron Troyer, Funeral Director

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    My son died on May 21, 2001. We do not know how he died and I will be sending all the necessary information to Dr. Bonnell and his team for a second opinion.

    I found after my son's death that the funeral home had indicated the clothes my son was wearing at the time his body was found. I have contacted the funeral home to find out this is true and under whose authority they would do such a thing but not head back from them.

    My question is, why would they destroy evidence? And would they have to have a parents consent to incinerate the clothing?

    Also, we discovered a knot on the right side of my son's neck that looks very suspect but no one has given us an answer to why or what that is. Is it possible to cause that in while embalming?

    I am very sorry for the loss of your son. Your response to the unanswered questions surrounding the death are very mormal. I may not be of much help in answering your specific questions regarding the clothing and the knot you saw on his neck. If the clothing was needed for evidence in an investigation it would be the responsibility of the Coroner/Medical Examiner to collect and preserve. If the clothing was released with the body to the funeral director it would no longer be considered evidence necessary for further investigation. If I had been the funeral director serving your family I would have ask for directions from you regarding the disposition of the clothing. I can't speak for the funeral director who served you so I hope you can get a satisfactory response from them. The funeral director would also be able to tell you what you saw on your son's neck. It would only be speculation on my part to try to answer the question. Please continue to seek the answers you need. The support you can receive from POMC is very important for you and your family. No one knows exactly how you are feeling or doing more than the parents you will meet and learn to love in your support group.

    -Ron Troyer, Funeral Director

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    Does the funeral home complete any type of paperwork as far as wounds that are noticable on the body and where they are located? I would like to compare this with the medical examiner report and autopsy. If such a form is done by the funeral home, would I have access to it, and how would I go about requsting it?

    Many funeral homes complete an embalming report if such service is requested. On that report would be listed any wounds to the body. It the body was unembalmed before disposition then it is not likely the funeral home would have the report you are looking for. Contact the funreal home who assisted your family and ask if an embalming report is available to view. I hope this will help you find the information you are seeking.

    -Ron Troyer, Funeral Director

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    Can you tell me if a person if found guilty of murdering a child when the child was adopted by the same person, after the child is buried wherever they decided to bury the child...can the childs bio family who can prove they had an established relationship with this child their entire life eventhough they lived in a seperate state have the body exhumed and placed in a cemetary of their choice? Would the murderer's family or home owners insurance be responsible for those expenses?

    That is a question for legal people from your state. You would need to get a judge to make a legal ruling that the biological family had the right to control final interment. May also want to check to see if there is a crime victims assisstance in the state of the crime

    -Ron Troyer, Funeral Director

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    My question concerns the Funeral Home us using an incorrect date of death on all our son's records.
    Our son's body was found on January 2, 2002. There was an autopsy on his body on January 3rd. The Funeral Director told us after the autopsy that he had died around 2 AM on January 2nd. He used that date on all church records, news media, burial records and, consequently, we used it on his grave markers. Several weeks later the medical examiner provided a Death Certificate showing that he died on January 1st. The Medical Examiner showed us a copy of a death certificate showing the date of January 2 sent to him by the Funeral Director - which he had refused to sign. The Funeral Director refused to accept any responsibility for the incorrect date - he said he thought that the medical examiner had provided the January 2nd date rather than the Sheriff's Deputy. How could this have happened? Is the Funeral Home responsible for corrections? What can we do to insure that this does not happen to other families? (Our family has never received an official report concerning the death of our son.)

    I am very sorry to hear of the death of your son. How difficult that would be even without the additional pain and confusion on his death date. There are a number of facts not stated in your email which would help me in my answer so I will be more general than specific. I believe the funeral director acted in good faith initially on the use of Jan 2 as the death date. He no doubt got that initial information from the Medical Examiners office. The autopsy then provided additional information, which after analysis can take several weeks, allowed the Medical Examiner to be more specific on the time of death thus being able to determine it occurred on Jan 1. In most states the funeral director is responsible for the preparation of the death certificate based on information given to them by the family. The funeral director would have taken it to the ME office for certification of death. The death certificate is then usually returned to the funeral director for filing with the local government office. When the medical examiner refused to sign the death certificate with the wrong date another death certificate would have been prepared most likely by the funeral director. At that point the funeral director would have been aware of the offficial change in date of death. If I had been the funeral director I would have immediately notified the family of the change in death date. You can check on the certified copy of the death certificate for the date it was signed by the ME, at that point the funeral director knew the official date of death. If you ordered the grave marker after that date I believe the funeral director should take care of the cost of redoing the marker. Check with your state licensing agency to find out who controls the licensing of funeral directors in your state. Your may be able to get some relief through that agency. What happened to your family on the confusion the death date is very rare in my experience.

    You are entitled, as his next of kin, to receive a copy of the Medical Examiners official report. If you have not requested this in writing you can do so. There are also pictures that were taken by the ME during the investigation of your son's death. If it is important to you as parents to know everything you can about your son's death they may be important to also see. These pictures can be usually viewed in the ME office with a counselor present.

    Much of my response is based on what happened in my funeral service career. Your local situation may be different. I am so glad to know you are connected to POMC. I know from my professional experience the only way parents get real help is from other parents who have survivied the experience. God bless you.

    -Ron Troyer, Funeral Director

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    My Daughter of 24 past away a few years ago... Her Husband and Mother in-law decided to bury my Daughter Melissa in her Wedding Dress. When asking why, their answer was, well who else is going to wear it. You know at that time, it did sound strange but didn't give it to much thought. Even thou Melissa was so happy on her Wedding day, I just keep on thinking that it means some thing else.

    My condolences to you on the death of your daughter. She was so young and it would be incredibly hard to adjust to a life without Melissa present in your life. My answer to you on the use of her wedding dress for the burial would have to be based on my professional experience of 35 years. I can remember at least 3 times where I helped a family with a similar death who used the wedding dress for burial. I have also heard this same story repeated by parents in the Compassionate Friends and POMC meeting that I have attended many times over the years. I also have used for funerals baseball uniforms, boy and girl scout uniforms, prom dresses, football jerseys and harley davidson leathers. This clothing selected by the family represented a happy and important time in their lives. I don't find anything unusual or different with using clothing that is symbolic of a special event that was important to all of you. I think the answer to your question is that there is no greater or unanswered meaning. All things considered, without any opportunity for reheasal, all of you did the best you could.

    -Ron Troyer, Funeral Director

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    My child was murdered, and before, during and after the funeral was just unbearable and I didn't and couldn't question the funeral director about anything as I was too overwhelmed in grief. My question is: What is the procedure to get documents from the funeral home, regarding exactly what was done to my son? So far, all I got was, "you don't want to know that" but, I DO want to know. Is there a legal procedure? I want to know everything that they found, and every injury and mark on my son. Thank you in advance for your answer to my question.

    Your grief is understandable. Answers to these questions will help but not end this unbearable pain your experiencing now. Please know that most funeral homes would have answered your questions directly and without delay. Because I don't know your exact situation I will answer in more general terms. If your request for information is not being answered directly then I suggest you have a third party (Lawyer, Minister, close friend) put in writing your request and ask the information be sent to them. You will need to give thr third party a written release allowing the information to be sent to them. The request should ask for a copy of the written embalming report if you authorized embalming to occur. This report is a requirement by law to be kept by the funeral home. It should have a detailed analysis of the condition of your son's body.

    Another source of information on the injuries and condition of the body would be the Medical Examiner/Coroner. They would be required to have investigated the death. There would be a lengthy report on the injuries included in the autopsy report. There would have been pictures taken as part of this investigation. The pictures are usually very difficult to look at but sometime it is the only way to answer a parent's questions. Again using a third party to request this information and viewing of pictures may work best for you.

    I believe those who tell you "you don't want to know" are probably trying to protect you. They just don't realize that it only causes more pain. You have a right to know as a parent the answers to your questions. You have a very long journey to go in easing your pain. If finding out answers to the questions you have posed to me remains important then be persistent in seeking them. If I had been your funeral director I would have been open and answering your questions from the beginning. I am sorry you didn't get that.

    -Ron Troyer, Funeral Director

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    I have a question about cremation and the remains. My father was shot by my step mother eight years ago. She was the one the body was released to and she is the one that decided he would be cremated. We were not allowed to view the body or anything. Was that legal? Did she have the only right to the body? I am his only surviving daughter and I was told I could not view his body. Also once she had him cremated we were never told what she was doing with the ashes. What are the laws in Oklahoma about spreading ashes? Can she legally spread the ashes in Oklahoma? I was told no. Do I not have the right to know where the ashes are?

    I am very sorry to read of the death of your father. It is obvious that even as the years go by your pain continues to be deep and ongoing. I am not knowledgeable of Oklahoma laws that pertain to the disposition of remains after cremation. I believe you can get the answer to these questions from a licensed funeral director in OK. Please contact a funeral director in your home town for these answers. In general the law allows the spouse to be in control of final disposition. This would include allowing the spouse to control arrangements and authorize cremation. The spouse would also have the right to control possession of the cremated remains. This could all change if the spouse were held responsible for the death (homicide) than the court could declare the NOK (children) to have the right to have the remains. Since I don't know the legal outcomes in your father's death I cannot be more direct in my answer. Having a Court order giving you access to your father's remains would be the only thing left if the relationship with your step-mother is not friendly. I encourage you to continue to meet with POMC families. These survivors are the ones who best know your pain and can offer hope and understanding. Thank you for reaching out for some answers. It is a first step in seeking a healthy resolution to a terrible tragedy.

    -Ron Troyer, Funeral Director

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    How do you get the embalming report and is that information kept indefinately? Please tell me how to obtain it without hiring a lawyer.

    Every state (except Colorada) has rules and regulations that are enforced on funeral homes by a state agency, usually the state health department. Do an internet search of the state you live in to find out who regulates Mortuary Science. I would contact them to see if they have a consumer mediation program available. The power of the state, which grants a license to the funeral home to operate, might be enough to get the report sent to you. You also should contact the state funeral directors association in your state. A quick internet search wuold give you the address and phone number. If the funeral home that holds this report is a member, then ask the association to help you in getting the report. Most FD associations are very sensitive to the consumers concerns and would be aware of negative publicity from this lack of response to your requests. If none of this helps you get the report then write to the funeral home again and tell them you will be writing to the newspaper and TV stations that cover your area if they don't immediately send the report. If they don't respond then start writing. One of these media outlets will surely pick up the story and the pressure to avoid more negative stories should motivate the funeral home to cooperate. I am very sorry that you are having to fight for information that could help you in understanding the whole story surrounding the death of your child. Clearly a majority of funeral directors would have responded to your request in a timely matter with the embalming report.

    -Ron Troyer, Funeral Director

    I had what I could donated of my son’s body.  It was skin and bone - legs.  After I saw his body in the mortuary I know that his clothes I wanted him buried in would not have fitted him.  I am speaking about his waist down.  What do you do where the pants does not fit?

    First, I would like to say it is a brave decision to donate skin and bone from your son.  This is often a decision made when experiencing tremendous emotional pain.  Your courage to move ahead on this probably has brought some joy to another family and a better quality of life to the recipient.  Thank you for that.  My experience with skin and bone donation was that the deceased was able to be dressed in clothes that they would normally wear.  Not having seen what you are describing I cannot address why the pants would not fit as you wanted them to.  If I had been your funeral director I would have discussed the options available to make the clothing look acceptable to your family, perhaps a different size or an adjustment on the back seam of the pants that you were planning to use.  I would have given you time to think about your decision and then moved forward with an acceptable solution.  I am quite sure that all things considered you did the best you could.  Engaging in conversation with other bereaved parents is something I would encourage you to do as you seek comfort and understanding  regarding the pain experienced from the loss of your son.

    -Ron Troyer, Funeral Director

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