The owner of a Cleveland, Tenn., funeral home fined for falsifying a death certificate says the whole thing arose from an attempt to help a grieving family.
The Times Free Press reported April 23 that Companion Funeral & Cremation Service had been fined $1,000 by the Tennessee Board of Funeral Directors and Embalmers for forging the medical examiner's name on a death certificate for Tyler Worth, who was shot to death in October. Five people face charges in his death.
Trae Cody, owner and funeral director at Companion, concedes the facts as reported in the news story but said in a statement that "we were only doing what we thought the quickest and most simple way of obtaining a death certificate for the family we were serving.
"There was not any opportunity for personal gain or deception. We were simply trying to fix a small clerical error."
Cody said the funeral home was filling out part of the death certificate signed by Medical Examiner Emily Dennison and accidentally checked a box wrong. To send and get back a new certificate from Dennison would take days, he said.
"We knew that our small mistake could potentially cost the family an additional two to three weeks of waiting for their death certificates, so we tried to reconcile this," Cody wrote.
He said the staff transferred the exact same information to a new form, including Dennison's signature, and registered it as they usually do.
Sometime later, Dennison noticed the difference in the form and called the funeral directors board.
Cody said he spoke with board chairman Dr. Robert Gribble, who told him how a serious offense had occurred but said he understood how it could happen that way. Gribble could not be reached for comment Friday afternoon, according to Kevin Walters, spokesman for the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance.
Cody said he also apologized to the Office of the Medical Examiner in Nashville.
He called the incident a "mistake" that is "a first of its kind" for Companion, which he said has never been cited with a violation during annual inspections by the Board of Funeral Directors & Embalmers.
"We are a business entity, ran by human beings who make mistakes, we just always hope that our mistakes err on the side of taking care of a family like this one," Cody said.