Authorities have announced charges against the owner of a Lancaster County funeral home where police said they found decomposing bodies.
Benjamin M. Siar Jr., 41, of Lancaster, faces four counts each of theft and abuse of a corpse. He has not been arrested and authorities are urging him to surrender.
Lancaster County District Attorney Craig Stedman said Friday that several families paid Siar thousands of dollars for cremation services that were never provided.
Police on Thursday executed a search warrant at the Gundel Funeral Home, at 3225 Main Street in Conestoga, and found four bodies in various stages of decomposition, according to Stedman.
Stedman said two bodies were found in the garage, one in a cooling unit and another in a cardboard box, and two more were found on a table in the basement.
According to the district attorney, one of the bodies was that of Ranasia Knight, a 2-year-old Lancaster girl who died January 12 after she allegedly was beaten by her mother's boyfriend.
Knight's body was found on a basement table, as was the body of 71-year-old Sandra Hotchkiss, who died January 21. The body of 76-year-old Rosa Kleinhouse, who died December 20, was found in a cardboard box in the garage, and the body of 97-year-old M. Elizabeth Zug, who died December 26, was found in a cooling unit in the garage, Stedman said.
“It's difficult to conceive of anybody treating people like this, particularly ones in the business of trust and taking care of the deceased,” Stedman said. “The families, I imagine, will never be able to forget this, and he's got to answer for this.”
abc27 News first reported Tuesday that at least eight families filed complaints against Siar. Stedman said he expects more charges as the investigation continues.
abc27 News attempted to contact Siar for comment, but the phone calls were not returned.
The Gundel family no longer owns or is associated with the Gundel Funeral Home, which has locations in Conestoga and Lancaster.