For Vonda Kirchner, 2015 was a difficult year.
She lost her mother, Mary Klouse, at the start of that year and 9 months later, she’d get another punch in the gut.
Kirchner was stunned to find a $10,000 statement of goods and services for her mother’s funeral from the Andrew T. Scheid Funeral Home.
The signature bearing her name at the bottom of the contract was not hers, she said.
Kirchner filed a police report with the Lancaster Bureau of Police in October 2015 which was later forwarded to the Lancaster County District Attorney’s office.
The latter decided not to pursue the case, she said.
Nearly three years later, the same result occurred in the case of Elwood Reese.
His body sat for three days, unembalmed and unrefrigerated in a room with no air conditioning at the Andrew T. Scheid Funeral Home Lancaster city location on South Prince Street.
A complaint sent to the district attorney’s office in July 2019 alleged four or five other bodies lying in an unrefrigerated room.
But an evaluation into that complaint ended within weeks.
“I think it started when the district attorney in Lancaster dumped me,” Kirchner said of her case. “They didn’t take it for whatever (reason). But I do feel if my stuff would’ve come out, that people would’ve thought twice before going to him,” she added.
“A lot of people could’ve been saved from their suffering and their torment.”
It begs the question: With such a long gap in the alleged infractions, why wasn’t anything done sooner?
Even for the more proactive consumer, it’d be difficult to determine if any complaints were lodged against Andrew T. Scheid — his funeral home had no disciplinary record in the public Pennsylvania Licensing System until Thursday, when an immediate temporary suspension was issued by the Department of State.
So why did it take so long?
Officials stay quiet
The Klouse and Reese cases were outlined, along with eight others, in a Department of State disciplinary complaint against Andrew Scheid made public just over a week ago.
The state finally took action Thursday to suspend Andrew Scheid’s license following the recovery of four bodies Tuesday night from Scheid’s Funeral Home facility in Manor Township.
Brett Hambright, a spokesman with the District Attorney’s office, declined comment on the specific cases.
Hambright told LNP | LancasterOnline that generally, action is taken to evaluate the information received from a referral or complaint and that protocol is followed in each case.
“If a criminal investigation is warranted, additional action is then taken,” he said.
Some families have filed compliants with several different agencies -- the state Attorney General’s office, the state Board of Funeral Directors or the Lancaster County District Attorney’s office. (Heather Adams was sworn in as the prosecutor in January, prior to that the role had been held for more than a decade by Craig Stedman).
As of Thursday, the state Attorney General’s office said it had received 15 complaints about the business. A spokeswoman would not elaborate.
Ellen Lyon, a spokeswoman with the Department of State, also declined to comment on the cases outlined in the state disciplinary action, citing confidentiality statutes, but said the investigatory process is “largely complaint driven.
“Thorough investigations entail gathering documents and interviewing witnesses as well as the licensee,” Lyon said. “So they can take time.”
‘It’s bad for the profession’
In a telephone interview before the Thursday suspension order, one of the members of the state funeral board, Robert E. Neely, said that cases “can take a while to appear” before he board.
Neely, the secretary of the board, said he had no recollection of the Andrew Scheid case or allegations coming before him. Neely is a funeral home director in Allegheny County and has been on the state board since 2014.
Neely said he filed a complaint himself to the Department of State eight months ago and hasn’t heard anything back on it.
He said cases could take up to a year or more of investigating before reaching the state board for action.
But Neely has grown impatient.
“I’ve complained that we should be more proactive and quicker,” he said. “I don’t like to hear these things going on for so long. It’s bad for the profession.”
(Andrew T. Scheid Funeral Home is not affiliated with Melanie B. Scheid Funeral Directors and Cremation Services).