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Tuesday, 08 November 2016 14:33

Funeral director accused of cremating without permits

Written by  Jonah Beleckis/Gazettextra.com
Jay B. Gravitt Jay B. Gravitt

JANESVILLE -- A Beloit funeral home director is accused of cremating bodies without getting legitimate permits, according to a criminal complaint filed in Rock County Court.

Jay B. Gravitt, 48, of Beloit is charged with three felony counts of forgery and five misdemeanor counts of cremating a corpse without a permit, according to a complaint filed Oct. 25, 2016.

Gravitt is the owner of Hansen-Gravitt Funeral Home, 424 Prospect St., and is the only certified funeral director there.

Dane County Medical Examiner Barry Irmen met with a Beloit detective July 27 because he had concerns about cremation procedures at the funeral home, according to the complaint.

Irmen told police the procedure for cremating a corpse, as determined by state statute, is for a funeral home to first contact the medical examiner's office so an investigator can ensure the body is consistent with what the doctor listed on the death certificate, according to the complaint.

Irmen said permits must come from the medical examiner's office, and his office is contracted to handle duties in Rock County, according to the complaint.

Gravitt had fallen behind on payments to the county, and Irmen said Gravitt needed to pay the county the $1,500 he owed before he would get another permit, according to the complaint. Irmen said Gravitt paid by check, but the check did not clear.

In May, an investigator completed an inspection of a body but said Gravitt never asked for the permit, according to the complaint. Irmen logged onto the Statewide Vital Records Information System and found two cases in which Gravitt hadn't requested a permit after an inspection.

Hansen-Gravitt had more than 50 cremations in 2015 and 2016, according to the complaint. Greenwood Cemetery and Cremation Services, Rockford, Illinois, is listed as the company that does cremations for Hansen-Gravitt.

Irmen said he found five cremations that had no permit issued from his office, and the cremations appeared to be recorded by Gravitt using the information system form, according to the complaint.

Gravitt later admitted to police he knew the medical examiner's office replaced the coroner's office and the information system form was no longer valid.

Irmen said his office never uses that form, and he and three others said they never signed those permits, according to the complaint.

A detective found 17 cases between January 2015 and May 2016 in which corpses were cremated using a faulty permit or were cremated before a permit was issued by the medical examiner's office, according to the complaint.

Amy Berry, executive director for Greenwood Cemetery and Cremation Services, told police the company accepted Gravitt's cremation release forms because they were the same forms used by the coroner's office before the medical examiner's office took over the process in Rock County, according to the complaint.

Gravitt told police he takes a lot of “state aid” cases in which he pays the funeral expenses out of pocket and is later reimbursed by the state, according to the complaint. He said when Rock County had its own coroner's office, he did not have to pay for the cremation certificate if it was a state aid case.

Gravitt admitted to forging a medial examiner employee's signature, according to the complaint. He said he used the information system form because he thought Irmen was holding up the permit process.

Gravitt is next due in court at 1 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 16, for an adjourned initial appearance.

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