Rockingham funeral home closed down
by Dawn M. Kurry Richmond County Daily Journal
A Rockingham funeral home has been shut down after the North Carolina Board of Funeral Services concluded that the establishment was operating without the proper licensing.
Russell - Marks Funeral Home was located at 519 Rockingham Road, Rockingham, but the yellow house which sits across from Rockingham City Hall now has a 'for sale/lease' sign posted on the property and weeds have grown up on the lawn.
Following the suspension of the license of Russell - Marks Funeral Home & Cremation Service, Inc. — which was suspended “due to several complaints,” according to Board Director Peter M. Burke — a hearing was held Aug. 14 to address accusations of fraud, mishandling of pre-need contracts and “questions concerning cremation services contracted with another funeral home,” said Burke.
When the owner of the funeral home, Larry Russell, was notified about the hearing in July, he said, “I am taking the necessary steps to get my license back. It's not revoked, just suspended. I can remedy that before (the hearing).” But according to Burke, Russell did not attend the hearing.
“We are in the process of preparing a written final agency decision with more details,” said Burke, who said within a week the board will release details about the investigation and the hearing. In the meantime, Burke shared a few details about the hearing.
“It went as well as could be expected,” he said. “A number of witnesses showed up to the hearing. Mr. Russell did not attend the hearing so it made the decision easy.”
Burke said the witnesses addressed concerns and specific charges including “primarily items of fraud, pre-need violation, and Mr. Russell was practicing without a license. Folks corroborating that for us.”
According to Burke, Russell - Marks Funeral Home & Cremation Services is “out of business.”
The recent allegations against Russell's business sparked several phone calls to the Daily Journal and the Board of Funeral Services from all over the country related to the charges Russell faced.
“This investigation (was) prompted by consumer complaints that have caused us to question the operations taking place at Russell - Marks Funeral Home,” said Burke last month. “There are questions concerning cremation services contracted with another funeral home.”
When contacted by the Daily Journal earlier this summer, Russell said the investigation centered around a dispute over payment by clients.
“I refused to proceed with the cremation because the family refused to bring the rest of the money that was owed,” said Russell.
The dispute that allegedly prompted the investigation escalated between clients and Russell in July when confusion arose as to where a deceased family member was located. According to the crematory, the family called to confirm the status of the cremation, at which point the family learned that the crematory had not received the deceased. The family contacted the Rockingham Police Department which then made a visit to Russell - Marks Funeral Home to check on the status of the deceased, according to Rockingham Police Chief Billy Kelly.
” … No laws have been broken that we can see. It's a civil matter,” said Kelly, in part, last month.
The N.C. Board of Funeral Services placed a public notice in the Daily Journal, asking anyone who had made a “pre-need funeral contract with Russell - Marks Funeral Home & Cremation Service, Inc. or Larry W. Russell ” to contact the board.
More details will follow as the board makes them available to the Daily Journal in a week or so.
Multiple calls from the Daily Journal to Larry Russell on Monday went unanswered.
— Staff Writer Dawn M. Kurry can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 15, or by email at email@example.com.
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