Post by Graveyardbride on Oct 4, 2018 15:05:37 GMT -5
Funeral Director Sentenced for Photographing/Mocking the Dead
STROUDSBURG, Penn. – A procession of grieving relatives and friends of deceased loved ones entered the Monroe County Courthouse Wednesday, October 3, all of whom were shocked their loved ones had been subjected to the worst sort of mockery before they were laid to rest.
Angeliegha M. Stewart, a former funeral director employed by the Lanterman & Allen Funeral Home on Washington Street in East Stroudsburg admitted taking photos of corpses to “gross out” her friends.
But it was the survivors who were grossed out and embarrassed. Eight speakers addressed the court, saying they were devastated by the images. Several claimed to have suffered sleepless nights and emotional and psychological turmoil. “It wasn’t just photos; it was my mom,” Debra Erdman told Stewart, seated a few feet away in the courtroom. “You have no idea of the damage you caused,” she added, claiming she suffers from nightmares necessitating both medication and counseling.
Judy Blauvelt, grieving for her deceased granddaughter, recalled Stewart seemed caring and compassionate when the family made funeral arrangements and everyone was shocked when they learned about the photos. “It’s almost unbearable,” Blauvelt insisted. “You compromised my granddaughter’s dignity.”
Marianne Connell revealed Stewart even took a selfie with her late husband on the morgue table. Those images weren’t taken and deleted, she charged, but maintained on Stewart’s phone for years.
After informants alerted police, Stewart was arrested in September 2017 on charges of multiple counts of abuse of a corpse, tampering with evidence and distributing marijuana.
Investigators found four photos showing a person whose organs had been harvested. Four others were of a decomposing corpse covered in maggots. There were also six photos of unidentified deceased persons and 13 of the dead in their coffins. Stewart admitted taking the photos on her cellphone and said she understood how they would be alarming to people. She attempted to explain she took the photos to share with colleagues, but admitted showing one specific, gruesome photo to her ex-boyfriend to “gross him out.” She also said she took some of the photos to share with her colleague as a joke.
Additionally, there were photos and text messages indicating Stewart was selling marijuana, which prompted detectives to execute a search warrant at her apartment, which was located in the funeral home.
Following Stewart’s arrest, the funeral home issued the following statement: “We were disappointed to learn of the allegations and we are taking them very seriously. As this is an ongoing investigation, we are fully cooperating with authorities and are not able to comment further at this time.”
In a tearful statement, Stewart faced the families and apologized. “I can’t imagine how you feel. If I could take away the pain, I would,” she said, adding she hoped her sentencing would begin the process of closure.
The families were mixed in their views of Stewart’s fate. Some said they wanted her to serve time in jail, but none wanted the trauma of a trial. “You are mourning the loss of your job, of your happiness,” charged Jolene Kuna, who was mourning the loss of her father and accused Stewart of “mocking” him “for your sick pleasure. I do not forgive you.”
However, Stewart was forgiven by one survivor, the Rev. Cait Finnegan Grenier of Cresco whose husband’s corpse was among those photographed. A minister in the Celtic Christian Church, Grenier, wearing her clerical collar, declared she was commanded by God to forgive, even though she wanted “to smack the crap out of” Stewart. The minister also said she thought Stewart’s best chance for change would come if she spent time in jail, citing the Prayer of St. Francis: “Where there is injury, pardon ... Where there’s darkness – and there has been – let me spread light.” Then, reciting the Lord’s Prayer, she said she was called to forgive just as God forgives. “It’s meaningless if I don’t do that,” Grenier added.
After listening to relatives of the deceased and Stewart’s explanations and apology, Judge Jonathan Mark sentenced her to 10 years probation, 250 hours community service and surrender of her funeral director’s license.
Sources: Tim Darragh, The Morning Call, October 3, 2018; Gina Tron, Oxygen Crime Time, September 25, 2017; and WGNO, October 4, 2018.