News 4 Investigates: Funeral home unable to help murder victims' -

News 4 Investigates: Funeral home unable to help murder victims' families due to fund concerns

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Murder victim's families are having trouble getting access to funds. (Credit: KMOV-TV) Murder victim's families are having trouble getting access to funds. (Credit: KMOV-TV)

ST. LOUIS ( -- Some local funeral homes are now refusing to help murder victims' families who can't afford funeral services.

The businesses are losing faith they will get reimbursed from a state program intended to help. The sound of tears is all too familiar hundreds of families in the St. Louis area devastated by gun violence each year. They are dealing with grief and big bills from an unexpected loss.

“They don't want a direct cremation or something, they want that person honored,” said Funeral Director Sharon Randal Gardner. 

For many years, Randal and Son's Funeral Home in north city fronted the cost of funerals for murder victims, often getting paid in the long-run by the Crime Victim’s Compensation Fund.

That fund doesn't come from taxpayers, it’s a fee paid by offenders in court, then given out to crime victims and/or their families for things like medical bills, lost wages, and up to $5,000 in funeral services.

But now?

“We just can't do it anymore,” said Gardner.

Gardner says the state's been taking too long if the claim's eventually denied, she says she often can't get paid at all.

Then I can't find the family, the family has moved on and we are stuck.

Too much, she says, for a small business to bear.

“We can't, we can't survive,” Gardner said.

“We are in a crisis right now,” said State Representative Kim Gardner.

Gardner has filed a bill allowing funeral homes to have a direct claim to the fund.

She's running for Circuit Attorney and you may have guessed from the name, she's Sharon’s daughter. She said there isn't a conflict of interest.

This helps every funeral home, from the rural areas to the urban ones.

More important, she says: “It's not just about the business but that we can all work together to make that victim whole, in some way.”

But some victim advocates aren't so sure.

“We have seen some funeral homes in the area have some pretty unscrupulous practices, where the bills don't add up,” said Jessica Meyers, Director of Advocacy Services for the Crime Victim Advocacy Center in St. Louis.

Meyers says other private companies might also want their hands on victim's money.

“This is just one more process that victims have the power over and allowing other people to have access, has the potential to limit their voice in the process.” Meyers said.

So for now, some victim's families simply have to find their own way to pay.

“They struggle and they beg,“ Sharon Gardner said.

Advocates say the back-log for victim's to receive the money is about four to six months, but they say it's getting better.

By the way, you know how it seems like a lot more people are using crowdsourcing and other fundraisers for funerals these days?

If families pay for a funeral with donations, they will not get reimbursed from the state.

To learn more about the Crime Victim’s Compensation Fund, click here. 

Copyright 2016 KMOV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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