Forged death certificate draws fine for Cleveland funeral home

In this Oct. 16, 2015 picture, funeral director John Williams turns away after placing a casket containing the remains of a man who died of natural causes in a hearse in Baltimore. Coming off of the most violent year in the city's recent history, Williams has buried more bodies -- many of them young black men, many gunned down in the city’s west side -- than ever before. In a normal month, he might do three funerals. This past summer, he buried two people a week. Some died naturally, of illness or old age. Most showed up pierced by knives or bullets. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

A funeral home in Cleveland, Tenn., is paying a $1,000 fine for forging the medical examiner's name on a death certificate in a murder case.

Dr. Emily Dennison filed a complaint in December alleging Companion Funeral and Cremation Service forged her name and filed an altered death certificate for Tyler Andrew Worth.

The 25-year-old Cleveland resident was shot to death in October and his body dumped in a ravine in Polk County, Tenn. At a preliminary hearing earlier this month, his accused killer's wife testified about Worth's death.

Companion and its operator could have lost their licenses over what the Tennessee Board of Funeral Directors and Embalmers called a "serious violation of the rules of professional conduct."

But the board withheld the most serious punishment when Companion operator H. Robert Cody Jr. said the firm was actually trying to do a good deed by getting the death certificate to the family quickly.

No one could be reached at the funeral home Saturday for comment.

Dennison's complaint said she performed an autopsy on Worth's body Oct. 18. She said she created and signed a death certificate and released that with the body to Companion the next day.

In November, the State Medical Examiner's Office received a copy of Worth's death certificate that didn't match the one she filed. Dennison said many of the fields were filled out by hand.

"I never signed a death certificate with any portion that was hand completed," Dennison wrote. "Upon further inspection, the signature on the filed death certificate is not my own and thus represents a forgery."

H. Robert Cody's son, Trae Cody, responded Dec. 10 to the complaint forwarded by funeral home board executive director Robert Gribble.

Trae Cody said Worth's family was pressing to get a copy of the death certificate and that "we made an error when filling out the one that the medical examiner gave us."

Instead of asking for another certificate to be mailed, he said, the funeral home just transferred the information on the original certificate to a new one and filed it.

"While we didn't change anything on the death certificate, I know this was an improper procedure and you can rest assured that from this day forward it WILL NOT happen again," he wrote.

H. Robert Cody Jr. added in a Dec. 18 letter, " the sole reason for copying it over was to help Mr. Worth's family out. There were no intentions of undermining authority or submitting false information to anyone."

Five people face charges in Tyler Worth's death.

When he went missing in October 2015, testimony and evidence pointed to a man named Jody Hughes. Searchers found Worth's body in a ravine off Kimsey Ridge Road in Polk County and Hughes was soon under arrest on a charge of first-degree murder.

Early in April, Hughes' wife testified against her husband at a preliminary hearing. She is charged as an accessory in the case along with Jeffery Todd Crumley, Guy Hawkins and Richard Jerger.