The State Law Enforcement Division has filed criminal charges against the co-owners of a Spartanburg funeral home where a body was left to rot in a locked storage room for three years.
Pastors Lawrence Meadows, 40, of Moore, and Roderick Cummings, 40, of Duncan, were charged Monday with destruction, desecration or removal of human remains.
They were later released on personal recognizance bonds.
The charges stem from the discovery of Mary Alice Pitt Moore's badly decomposed body at First Family Funeral Home in February, three years after she was supposed to have been cremated. The 63-year-old woman died in March 2015. Her body was stowed in an unrefrigerated room, draped in blankets and surrounded by air fresheners to mask the smell, according to Spartanburg County Coroner Rusty Clevenger.
Arrest affidavits from SLED allege Meadows and Cummings left the body to rot after Moore's family failed to pay the funeral bill in full.
SLED has been investigating the case for months but agents moved on the arrests just days after The Post and Courier highlighted Moore's story in "Grave Misdeeds," a special report that questioned the state’s system for monitoring the nearly 500 funeral homes and crematories that operate in South Carolina.
SLED spokeswoman Kathryn Richardson said the investigation into First Family remains open and ongoing.
Christian Spradley, an attorney for Moore's family, said the charges seem appropriate and "should keep them from getting a license to work in the funeral industry again."
Desecrating remains is a felony that carries a punishment of between one and 10 years behind bars.
Spradley said he had seen nothing to indicate Moore's family had an unpaid debt with the funeral home.
"But even if that was true, what they did was wrong," he said. "You still have an obligation to go ahead and take care of the body."
State Sen. Scott Talley, attorney for First Family Funeral Home, did not return phone messages and an email seeking comment Tuesday.
The state Board of Funeral Service suspended First Family Funeral Home’s license after Moore’s remains were discovered. The board won't discuss the case, though a spokeswoman acknowledged that a December inspection failed to spot Moore’s body on the premises.
Talley previously told The Post and Courier that several complaints had been filed against First Family. Two customers told the newspaper about legal claims they had filed alleging financial improprieties at the home. They said Meadows personally handled their arrangements, even though he had been banned from working as a funeral director.
The state revoked Meadows' license in 2015 for forging a name on a dead person’s life insurance paperwork to get access to the funds, according to state records.
Still, Meadows has remained active in the home. He even appeared on NBC’s "Today" in February 2017 in a segment hosted by his brother, MSNBC anchor Craig Melvin. Meadows discussed his fight against colon cancer while showing off his funeral office and a casket display. Melvin noted that "few people are as close to death every day as Lawrence Meadows."
Moore's decaying body had been lying around First Family for nearly two years at that point.
Moore's common-law husband of 38 years, Fred Parker Jr., said he had First Family's Greenwood branch handle his wife's arrangements at the recommendation of a relative. He said he paid the home to have her cremated, but they later ignored his calls and failed to turn over her ashes.
Parker was stunned when a coroner told him in February that her body had been left to rot all that time. An ex-employee of First Family alerted authorities to the body, which was in such poor condition that it took two weeks to identify Moore.
Another funeral home eventually cremated Moore for free and gave the ashes to her family.
Parker and his son, Taras, filed a lawsuit against First Family in March.