2007_05_6ftunder.jpgIt's hard enough when a loved one passes away, but reading a story from last week's Village Voice about abuses at a funeral home is absolutely horrifying. The story is one of mutilated, decaying, stolen bodies, as well as lost ashes. The Voice found that Riverton Funeral Home in Harlem had an ugly, ugly history. Riverton opened in 1957 near Harlem Hospital and was eventually shut down (it changed its name to Riverton Funeral Home II) in 2006. Before it closed, Riverton lost or settled several lawsuits by grieving families, but none of the plaintiffs have been paid any damages.

What were the claims by the families?

- In 1989: When Malloy's body arrived at the North Carolina funeral home, the mortician there wrote that "the body had a terrible odor; his entire body was leaking body fluid, and in an advanced stage of decomposition." In addition, Freeman says that there were maggots coming out of her dead brother's nose and mouth.

- In 1998: They accused Riverton of breaking the dead man's leg to force him into a casket that was too small. The legal complaint states that they were "shocked to discover the decedent's body had been mutilated and forced into a casket, which was obviously inappropriate for the matter at hand."

- In 2002: About a third of William's face had been chewed off by rats. "Chunks of his flesh, bites of him was taken of his neck, his arms, his forehead," Tyrone says. "They pulled the sheet down to his shoulders and that's all my stomach could take." William's nose is completely gone; only a bit of white cartilage is visible in a large hole in the middle of his face. White patches of chewed flesh cover his face, forehead, and parts of his neck. [The Voice has a gut-wrenching photo of William's face.]

Those are the more gruesome examples of negligence at the funeral home. Riverton was also sued several times for losing the ashes of deceased people.

All this happened despite the DOH fining the funeral home several times, investigating it, and shutting it down (it later re-opened with the slightly altered name). It only closed in 2006 when Timothy Davis, one of the four siblings that opened the home, died. Another co-founder and the retired funeral director, Mary Davis Galloway is still responsible for all the judgments against Riverton, but collectors are unsure of what assets she has. What's become of the old Riverton Funeral Home? It's now Strivers Row Funeral Home, opened by Galloway's nephew.

Image from cover art for HBO's Six Feet Under