Donna Tangert's son, Joe, passed just two days after Christmas. It would be the first time she was confronted with his loss.
She began the planning process with a call to Gundel Funeral Home in Lancaster.
"He said, 'If you don't like my prices you can shop around.' I should have hung up the phone right then," said Tangert.
As her son's funeral approached, she was still without a death certificate, still without his remains.
Tangert says she called Gundel's owner, Ben Siar, every day.
"I tried another number, and we got an answering service," she said.
Joe's funeral was held...without Joe.
"I cried and I cried," she said. "How could someone do this? How could someone lose ashes?"
"If this family was forced to have a funeral without their loved one, I could see how it could lead to civil action," said Kathleen Ryan, legal council for the Pennsylvania Funeral Directors Association in Harrisburg.
Now possible criminal action is underway with an investigation by the district attorney.
At least seven other families have come forward with claims of either mishandled remains or misused money.
Back in the Tangerts' Lancaster home, and weeks after their son's passing, the phone rang.
"Ben called and said, 'I'm sorry about all of this.' I said, 'I don't want excuses, I just want the ashes. I am tired of hearing my wife cry,'" said Donna's husband Barry.
The Tangerts say it took a few more weeks for the remains to arrive.
They came in a small white box with a death certificate, dated almost one month after Joe's passing.
The Gundel business was sold to Siar a decade ago. The Gundel family is not associated with any investigation.
The crematory who worked with Siar was contacted, and they say all remains were promptly returned to the business.
Tuesday, August 19 2014 1:03 PM EDT2014-08-19 17:03:38 GMT
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