QUINCY (CBS13) — Two government agencies knew of a body at the shuttered at shuttered funeral home, but neither went in right away to recover it.
The state’s Cemetery and Funeral Bureau received a report of the body three weeks before it was recovered, and the Deputy-Coroner of Plumas County waited eight days from when it was notified. Both agencies knew of missing remains of a logger who disappeared after his funeral in August 2018, neither drew a connection the remains could belong to him.
Phillip Henry was supposed to be cremated after his open-casket funeral. Within weeks, Quincy’s only funeral director John Fehrman suddenly died and Fehrman’s Funeral Home closed. No one could explain what happened to Phillip’s remains.
“I’m just thinking ‘where’s my brother at? What’s going on?’” said Mike Henry.
Tired of waiting, brother Mike Henry filed a written complaint to the Cemetery and Funeral Bureau in February about the “loss of ashes.” The state opened a desk investigation but closed the case in March without ever going to the funeral home. The Cemetery and Funeral Bureau claims Mike suggested the cremated remains may have inadvertently gone to a different family member. He denies that but recalls the phone call with the representative from the Funeral Bureau.
“’Oh yeah, I forgot to call you. We’ve dropped the case because there’s no records,’” he recalled the rep said.
Fast forward to April 30th — the Funeral Bureau claims the Fehrman family attorney contacted them about an unnamed body in cold storage at the funeral home. The state says a representative went there on May 3, but the doors to the funeral home were locked.
The state claims a week later on May 10, the Fehrman family told them they didn’t know the identity of the body. The Funeral Bureau says that’s when it became a coroner’s case and on May 13, the agency claims it spoke with Deputy Coroner Steve Peay about the body. Peay denies to CBS13 ever getting that call.
Although it is the same day, Peay admits Fehrman’s son contacted him about the body, so why didn’t he go over right away to recover it?
In the incident report Peay writes, “I told (Fehrman’s son) when he was able to travel to Quincy I would come down to the mortuary and assist in attempting to identify the person in the freezer.”
Peay told CBS13, “this did not fit the definition of what the Sheriff’s Office would investigate as a ‘Coroner’s case’. An immediate response was not necessary and I decided to wait until Steve Fehrman could travel to Quincy to assist him with identifying the remains.”
Eight days later, on May 21st, Peay reports arriving at the funeral home. ”I was overwhelmed by the smell of a decomposing body,” he wrote in the incident report.
“They smelled him. The refrigeration had gone out and they smelled the body,“ said Mike Henry.
The body was discovered in a walk-in refrigerator in a detached garage. In his report Peay says, “the temperature gauge(sic) on the exterior of the door…read 65 degrees.”
Each agency says that’s the first day they knew Phillip Henry’s body was not in cold storage.
“I had no idea the refrigeration unit was not functioning on the May 13th phone call with Steve Fehrman,” Peay said.
The Cemetery and Funeral Bureau insists it’s initial investigation was only looking for cremated remains. “Regrettably, the CFB was unable to reach a satisfactory conclusion for the February 19, 2019 complainant regarding cremated remains,” the agency said in a statement. It also says an, “ensuing probate matter, hindered the CFB’s ability to conduct a thorough investigation of the cremated remains.”
“To me, it seems like they didn’t even look for him if he was right next door to the office,” said Mike Henry.
It’s unclear how long that refrigerator was not working. What we do know is two government agencies knew for months that Phillip Henry’s remains were missing. Each agency knew of a body discovered at that funeral home well before it was recovered.
A supplemental report by Deputy J. Vickrey says Phillip Henry’s remains were still in his casket, with a dead bouquet of flowers on top. Vickrey reports there was “a white sash around the bouquet. The sash had gold, sparkly cursive lettering on it…The lettering read ‘Rest in Peace.’”