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Late Councilman’s Son Accuses Funeral Home of Holding Body ‘Hostage’

Brittany Greeson for The Washington Post via Getty Images
Brittany Greeson for The Washington Post via Getty Images

Eric Mays, a longtime and beloved member of the Flint City Council, died from natural causes last month. Then things got weird, according to a new lawsuit.

Eric HaKeem Deontaye Mays, identified as the councilman’s only child in court documents filed Monday, alleges that “violations of Michigan law, fraud, and conspiracy by the Lawrence E. Moon Funeral Home and four siblings of the late Councilman” have been committed in connection with the handling of his remains.

Mays died without a will, according to the lawsuit, which claims that only his son Eric has next-of-kin rights as to how to handle his remains. But the suit alleges that two of the elder Mays’ siblings instead lied to authorities that he had no children, and that a third sibling—an employee of the Moon Funeral Home—falsely represented to the Genesee County Medical Examiner’s Office that he had the legal authority to authorize the release of his body.

Now in possession of Mays’ remains, the Moon Funeral Home has refused to turn them over to Eric, the lawsuit alleges. Eric claims he has provided the company with the legally required documentation to authorize the release of the remains.

Eric’s complaint also accuses the siblings of “unjustly [profiting] from their fraudulent scheme by soliciting in-person donations from the community under the false premise they were the late councilman’s next of kin to purportedly raise money for funeral services they have no legal authority to control.”

Eric is asking a judge to cancel funeral plans arranged by the Moon Funeral Home for this coming weekend, and order the release of his father’s remains to the funeral home of his choice. He is also seeking a judgment for compensatory, punitive, and exemplary damages, as well as interest and legal fees.

An attorney representing Eric told Flint Beat on Monday that the Moon Funeral Home was “disrespecting the life and legacy of the late Councilman Eric B. Mays by holding his body hostage and refusing to turn it over to his son, and by participating in an unlawful conspiracy with estranged, rogue members of the late councilman’s family to deprive his son his right to lay his father to rest.”

When a reporter for MLive.com called the Moon Funeral Home on Monday, the person who answered the phone said they had no comment on the lawsuit. A sister of Mays’ similarly told the outlet that the siblings had no comment.

The elder Eric Mays represented the First Ward on the Flint City Council from 2013 until his death at age 65 on Feb. 24. The City of Flint hailed him in a statement for his “bold and courageous service,” saying he had been adored by his constituents.

“Councilman Mays was not only a dedicated public servant but also a tireless champion for the people of Flint,” Flint City Council President Ladel Lewis said in a statement last month, according to WJRT. “His unwavering commitment to the betterment of our community has left an indelible mark, and his absence will be deeply felt by all who had the privilege of knowing him.”

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