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Despite revoked license, ex-funeral director accused of poor treatment of deceased loved ones

Posted at 2:54 PM, Aug 10, 2021

(WXYZ) — The state revoked O’Neil D. Swanson II’s mortuary science license back in 2018. Now state investigators say the same man has gotten into the same trouble, accused of terrible treatment of people’s loved ones after they passed away.

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State officials say O’Neil Swanson II’s wife used her name on state paperwork to try to get a license to run a crematory in Ypsilanti Township. Records show, Dianne Swanson never actually got that license, but somehow the Swansons purchased the crematory and state investigators say they had been operating it without a license until early June.

That’s when state investigators and sheriff’s detectives raided Tri-County Cremation Services, and what they found inside was like something out of a horror movie.

Photos taken by Ypsilanti Township officials obtained by the 7 Investigators show leaking cardboard cremation containers, plumbing system hazards, structural damage, and mold.

Inside the crematorium, state records show there were at least 55 bodies – some stacked two-deep in cremation containers. Inspectors say they saw maggots dropping out of one of the containers, and discovered the body of someone who had died in December of 2018.

To make matters worse, state records show most of the bodies were not embalmed and the thermostat on-site was set to 77-78 degrees.

“He was unrecognizable,” said Kristen Schmidt. “And it just makes me sick, that they did that to him.”

Schmidt’s dad, Ronald, died on May 16, 2021.

“He was very loved,” said Schmidt. “We miss him.”

Kristen says when she contacted a company based in Troy called Comfort Cremation Services, she never realized the man who sold her the cremation package had previously lost his mortuary science license. She also didn’t know Comfort Cremation Services had an assumed name with the state, linking it to Tri-County Cremation Services in Ypsilanti and a man named O’Neil Swanson II.

“We went over everything with O’Neil Swanson,” said Schmidt. “I thought it was on the up and up … They really were kind of demanding the money at first, and I said, ‘well we’re waiting on his life insurance money to come through.’ They’re like, ‘well OK we’ll go ahead and hold off everything until we get that payment.’”

Schmidt says never imagined Swanson would not cremate her dad, even though she soon paid him about $1200.

“I’m like, ‘OK, it’s been 2 weeks, it’s been 3 weeks since my dad passed away, what’s going on,’” said Schmidt.

O’Neil Swanson II has a long history with the state, and he’s been the subject of multiple 7 Action News Investigations.

The state revoked his mortuary science license back in 2018 after they found decomposing bodies at his Flint funeral home. Swanson was also convicted of felony conversion of funds under the Pre-paid Funeral and Cemetery Sales Act.

That means he’s not eligible to hold a controlling interest in a cemetery or crematory, but state officials say he purchased Tri-County Cremation Services in March of 2020 and later launched the Comfort Cremations website.

That’s about the time Robert Hohman started noticing changes at the crematory.

“To see someone run something into the ground that way in just a matter of 9 or 10 months, it’s kind of sad,” said Hohman.

Hohman has owned the business next door to Tri-County Cremation Services for decades.

“Over the last few months, things got a little weird, and there was smoke coming out, lots of walking around in the parking lot on your phone kind of stuff… It’s like something doesn’t look right,” said Hohman.

After the initial police raid on June 3, 2021, Michigan’s Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) issued Cease and Desist orders to Swanson, Tri-County, and to Comfort Cremations.

But the 7 Investigators have seen a lot of activity at the crematorium in the weeks since that raid.

At one point, a rented refrigerated truck showed up. Records show law enforcement had to return when a man reported that Swanson offered him $100 to help move bodies from the building into the truck.

Ypsilanti Township code enforcement officials got a search warrant and condemned the building.

An email from the township’s Ordinance Supervisor captures the horror of what they found inside:

“The deceased from 2018 has 2-3 inches of liquid at the bottom. It’s so bad a funeral home who was on site a while ago flat out refused to remove the casket… Sorry but there are some things I’ll never be able to un-see, ever.”

Washtenaw County Sheriff’s reports indicate that body from 2018 could be the key to potential felony charges in this case, if the body was never interned.

“I think it’s horrible,” said Hohman. “It’s disappointing. It’s not something I could imagine doing to someone else.”

As for Kristen Schmidt, she says it took 7 weeks to finally get her father’s remains, and they had to pay a second funeral home to get him cremated. Now she wants to make sure this doesn’t happen to anyone else.

“It’s horrible, knowing that they did that to him. And that they did it to other families, that there are other people, other bodies there,” said Schmidt.

Ypsilanti Township officials worked very quickly to condemn the property, and have been pushing to get it cleaned up.

Meanwhile, the Attorney General’s investigation into what happened there is still underway.

The 7 Investigators have reached out to O’Neil Swanson’s lawyer for comment on this, so far he has not provided a statement