POCATELLO — The last previously unknown body removed from Downard Funeral Home as part of an ongoing criminal investigation has been identified, according to the Pocatello Police Department.
Pocatello police Capt. Bill Collins says the department has positively identified a body previously described as Subject #11, a woman approximately age 60 to 70 who was removed from the funeral home in September as part of the criminal investigation into the business owned by mortician Lance Peck and his wife.
Collins said that after the woman’s body was removed from the funeral home on North Garfield Avenue, police had an idea of who she was but could not make a positive identification due to the body’s state of decomposition. The Police Department was able to locate possible relatives of the woman and they agreed to voluntarily submit a DNA sample for comparison purposes, Collins said.
Pocatello police sent the woman’s body and the DNA sample from a possible relative to the Idaho State Police forensic lab in Meridian several weeks ago, Collins said.
With help from the lab and coroners in Ada and Bannock counties, authorities were able to confirm a hereditary match between the provided DNA sample and the woman’s body, Collins said.
The woman’s family has been notified and police are keeping them updated about the ongoing criminal investigation, Collins added. Due to the sensitive nature of the case, police are not naming the woman.
Pocatello police still have about 30 to 40 sets of unidentified cremated remains from Downard, said Collins, adding that it’s very unlikely that all of those remains will be positively identified.
In a news release distributed on Sept. 16, Pocatello police said officers had been receiving questions regarding the identification of cremated remains through DNA testing. In that release, police said the cremation process is very destructive to DNA and while ISP laboratories are equipped with highly modern technology and equipment, it is unlikely testing would produce identification.
Police remain optimistic, however, that a complete analysis of the troves of paper and digital documents seized from Downard Funeral Home following the execution of a search warrant there on Sept. 3 will shed more light on the unidentified cremated remains, Collins said. Police still have about 10 boxes of paperwork and several computers confiscated from Downard that have not yet been analyzed, Collins added.
Peck voluntarily surrendered his licenses to operate the businesses to the Idaho Division of Occupational and Professional Licenses the day police executed the search warrant in September. The funeral home has been closed ever since.
Following the execution of the search warrant, authorities removed 12 bodies in various states of decomposition and approximately 50 fetuses contained in jars from the funeral home. All 12 bodies have now been identified and police have confirmed the fetuses were part of a biological science collection donated from the University of Utah to Idaho State University and then to Downard Funeral Home for destruction.
The investigation into the funeral home involved the Idaho Bureau of Occupational Licensing, which oversees the Idaho Board of Morticians, receiving several complaints about the business. The complaints ranged from foul smells emanating from Downard Funeral Home and decomposing bodies being left out in the open there to reports from the families of deceased individuals that the bodies of their loved ones were supposed to be donated to ISU for scientific research purposes but were never provided by Downard to the university.
The criminal investigation into Downard Funeral Home remains ongoing, though no one has been charged with any crimes, police said.