Local funeral home holds body hostage - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Reported by Kontji Anthony

Local funeral home holds body hostage

A Memphis woman claims her son's body is being held hostage by a local funeral home. The body of Willie Roosevelt Perkins is at the S.W. Qualls Funeral home on Vance.

It's been there since October 8th, when he died. The owner and Perkins's mother are at odds over the bill.

But there are two sides to every story.

It's been a difficult three weeks for Georgia Hill. First, she's coping with her son's sudden death from a possible heart attack.

"I'm expecting him to be in there, but he's not. So I try my best to get through the nights," says Hill.

And now, the 72-year-old says S.W.Qualls Funeral Home refuses to release her son's body until she pays up. She could only afford $310 of the $2,000 bill.

"I said I'm on a fixed income, but I can give you something every month until it gets paid. She said 'oh, we'll work with you, we'll work with you," says Hill.

Action News 5 Reporter Kontji Anthony went to the Funeral Home to find out why they changed their minds.

When asked if they will release the body, S. W. Qualls Funeral Director Ceneta Qualls says,"I almost have no choice because the body's three weeks old."

Qualls says she never agreed to a payment plan.

Right now, she's $36,000 short for unpaid funerals and her accountant told her she has only $50 in wiggle room on her books.

She's just trying to keep her doors open. The building, built in 1913, is not getting any younger.

"I paid for the casket for the embalming of the remains, the box that she's going to use to bury him in," says Qualls.

A minister phoned State Representative GA Hardaway for help. "Even if the financial arrangements were not met, she can't hold this lady's son's remains hostage," says Hardaway.

Hill needs to bury her son. "It's just, I feel like kind of like I let him down," says Hill.

The state says it's illegal to hold a body.

Hardaway says if they don't comply, he'll be at the steps of the funeral home Monday morning asking the funeral home to turn Roosevelt's body over.

Click here to email Kontji Anthony.

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