Odor Of Decomposing Body At Broken Arrow Cemetery

Monday, July 27th 2009, 6:39 pm
By: News On 6

By Lori Fullbright, The News On 6

BROKEN ARROW, OK -- A grieving family says a terrible stench has made it miserable to visit their 7-year-old's final resting place.  They felt no one was listening to their concerns, so they talked to The News On 6. 

The News On 6 actually did a story on little JJ Copeland and his severe case of asthma a few years ago. JJ Copeland's terrible asthma eventually took his life. He passed way in February of 2008. He was interred inside a mausoleum, in a crypt, near his grandmother and uncle. Since then his baby sister wants to visit him several days a week.

2/11/2008 Related story: Remembering J.J. Copeland

But for the past month, the family says the smell of a decomposing body has made those visits unbearable.

"You can't bear it. You can smell it when you get out of your car in the parking lot, when you approach the doorway. You can smell it, as you just witnessed, before you even open the door, it hits you," said Steven Copeland, JJ's father.

The doors of the mausoleum are now locked and a note reads repairs are being made.

Steven says he and his wife began calling Floral Haven's office weeks ago, then the health department and the DEQ, because they worried the decomposing body was a health risk, but they say nothing happened.

"It's so frustrating. I'm considering moving my family out of here as soon as possible," said Steven Copeland.

Floral Haven's general manager told The News On 6 they are working on it. He said he learned about it last week and since then, they've removed the crypt face, added odor absorbing materials around the casket and when that didn't work, asked the family's permission to remove the body and have the funeral home who prepared it, to do some additional work.

They must get a disinterment permit from the state before beginning.

"Our primary concern is for the main family affected by this. Obviously, we have other families who are property owners here and we're sensitive to their needs. The hardest thing for me is asking their patience as we deal with this 24-48 hours, no doubt we can remediate the problem and there will be no noticeable odors from here on out," said Mark Blankenship, Floral Haven General Manager.

Floral Haven says it's fairly rare for this to happen, but not unheard of.  And, Floral Haven General Manager Mark Blankenship told The News On 6 they believe the odor was from a body prepared by Reynolds Funeral Home.  Blankenship stated that once they obtained a permit, the casket would be removed and sent back to Reynolds Funeral Home. 

Around 9 p.m. on Monday night, attorneys for Reynolds Funeral Home contacted The News On 6.  They said after an investigation into the cause of the smell, it was determined that the odor was not the result of a body prepared by Reynolds Funeral Home.

The Copelands believe something should've been done weeks ago.