WHITEHALL, Mich. (WOOD) — The family of 86-year-old Helen Anthony thought they were burying her ashes at a ceremony officiated by their town’s long-time funeral director. But according to court documents, the urn buried at the cemetery was empty and the body hadn’t been cremated.
Instead, according to a source close to the case, the funeral director left the body, frozen, in the back of his minivan, where it stayed even after police arrested him for drunken driving in that same vehicle.
It’s not clear how Whitehall police missed it.
The source said the body may have been in the vehicle for seven days.
Thomas Clock, owner of Clock Funeral Home of White Lake in Whitehall, turned himself in Friday morning. He is facing charges of fraud, attempted larceny by conversion and operating his funeral home without a state mortuary science license. If convicted, he could spend up to 10 years in prison.
He’s accused of “causing the victims to believe that they were burying the cremains of a loved one when in fact the urn was empty and the loved one had not been cremated when the urn was buried,” according to court records.
State records show his mortuary science license expired on Oct. 31.
In a Thursday telephone interview with 24 Hour News 8, Clock denied any wrongdoing, denied he left the body in his van and said if the urn was empty, it wasn’t intentional.
Helen Anthony died Dec. 3, according to her obituary.
A source close to the case said Clock took the body to a third-party crematorium in the Muskegon area, which is common practice, but that after he failed to turn in the proper paperwork for cremation, he returned to pick up the body.
It’s not clear when that happened.
But on Dec. 28, he allegedly held a fake burial with the empty urn at the Fruitland Township Cemetery.
The woman’s brother, George Anthony, told 24 Hour News 8 that he was at the burial, along with two friends and Clock. He said he believed they had buried the ashes. He was shocked to learn later the urn did not contain his sister’s ashes.
About two weeks later, on Jan. 9, Clock was arrested for second-offense operating while impaired in Whitehall, records show. The source said he had been driving his funeral home van, which was left that night at the funeral home.
Three days later, Helen Anthony’s body was discovered in the back of that van, still parked at the funeral home.
Authorities exhumed the burial site on Feb. 19 and confirmed the urn was empty, the source said.
Clock has operated two Clock funeral homes — in Ludington and Whitehall. Both are closed.
His cousin, Dale Clock, operates three separate Clock funeral homes in Muskegon, Grand Haven and Fruitport. He said his homes have worked with the woman’s family, recovering and cremating the body at no cost.
“We’ve been separate businesses for over 20 years and, unfortunately, my cousin has had some challenges and over the last six months, we know that it’s been getting worse,” Dale Clock said.
“It’s a very sad situation,” he added. “We feel terrible for it and because we’re all part of this same community, when families are hurting, we’re there to help. That’s what we’re trying to do.”
He said his funeral homes would honor any prearranged services set up through Thomas Clock.