ELK CITY, Okla. (KFOR) – A family whose loved one died in 2020 claims the funeral home that cremated him holds his ashes until they make a full payment.
“We paid the $1,500 and then they were asking for more. I’m a single mother, it was hard for me to get that money let alone more,” said Sherreea Crossland. She claimed that the home has also stopped remaining in contact with her on the issue.
Crossland’s father Barry Gowdy was a fixture in the Elk City/Oklahoma community. Years ago Gowdy had his own ambulance and would be called to help people. He soon after became a nurse and remained a nurse until his death.
Gowdy also campaigned to become Oklahoma’s Governor twice with the recent campaign being for 2020.
“He wanted to help people, my father was a good man,” said Crossland.
The COVID-19 pandemic hit the Gowdy family hard because Barry worked on the frontlines. Crossland said that he contracted Covid-19 in 2020.
“He contracted the virus and when he had to go to the hospital it was just too late for him,” said Crossland. “My last memory with him was being dressed in a full gown, mask and all. I had to sign a waiver saying that I was fine seeing him in person. He was then sent to Amarillo but there was nothing they could do.”
Gowdy died at an Amarillo hospital and Crossland was the only one in her family at the time who could pay for post-life arrangements at the Elk City branch of Martin-Dugger.
“I went to try and raise money to come up with the actual services but I couldn’t do that so we had him cremated,” said Crossland.
However, she claimed that Martin-Dugger at first told her $1,500 but would later ask for another $1,500.
“They said that we still owed more money,” said Crossland. “That’s been going on for a while they’ve been asking for more money. I don’t know what that’s for and I’ve tried contacting them several times but they either ignore my call or don’t deal with me.”
According to Choice Mutual, the average price for cremation in the state of Oklahoma is around $2,100.
Crossland said several times they tried working with the funeral home but to no avail.
“If we could just come together and work on something to get the remains. That is not right for someone to be cremated where their family has no idea where they are at or what’s going on with them,” said Crossland.
KFOR reached out to four different funeral homes in the Oklahoma metro. All four stated that it is not normal for a funeral home to withhold ashes until payment is made.
“No. We’re not allowed to hold anyone’s remains for lack of payment. That’s why we try to get a payment plan in place and work with the family member,” said Morgan Dorman of Moore Funeral & Crematory.
Dorman also stated that a funeral home would never hold ashes due to nonpayment.
“Really, if a payment is not made, no funeral home would hold their loved ones’ ashes. They have to release them at some point,” said Dorman.
As to it being illegal to withhold the cremated remains, the Oklahoma Funeral Board stated that the law is focused specifically on the fact that funeral homes aren’t allowed to withhold physical bodies.
There isn’t a specific rule stating that cremated remains cannot be held until payment is made. However, the board takes each complaint on an individual basis to determine what should happen next.The Oklahoma Funeral Board
The Board said that they spoke to Crossland Wednesday and told her to submit a formal complaint. In an email from Rochelle Covington, she said that she was able to tell her how to file a complaint and that they would get records from the funeral home and investigate after receipt of the complaint.
Crossland said she would file a complaint as soon as possible and that it wasn’t about the money, she just wanted her father back.
“It’s just ridiculous, we need some closure because it’s been so long,” said Crossland.
Martin-Dugger responded to KFOR Wednesday saying that they’ve been working with Crossland the whole time and would be more than happy to start a payment plan with her.
They said that they are holding onto Gowdy’s remains until full payment is made.
Crossland, according to Martin-Dugger is the legal next of kin that can pick up his remains.
Over the phone, the funeral home confirmed that she called them in July asking what her balance is and how much she has paid. According to the home, a payment of $1,400 or so is still due but around $1,500 has already been paid.