Funeral director Roland Gosey and Signature Funeral Home by Premier were fined $7,000 in civil penalties.
Terran Ellis was a former potential customer; he and his sister checked out Signature Funeral Home by Premier when their mom died in 2017. They met with Bevis Bell at the funeral home located at 5270 Knight Arnold Road.
They thought the prices were too high, so they told Bell they were going to use a different company. But they were surprised at his response.
"He told us he already picked our mom up and embalmed her, we didn’t discuss nothing, didn’t sign nothing,” Ellis said.
We first met Ellis when he and his sister accused Bell of holding his mom’s body hostage. They reported it to the State Department of Commerce and Insurance.
Turns out, according to a new order, they weren’t the only ones. The state accused the company of doing the same thing to two other families.
According to the state, Bell hadn't held a license with the state since 2000.
The funeral director, Roland Gosey, subsequently lost his license to practice in Tennessee, but he’s still licensed in Arkansas and owns a funeral home in Arkadelphia.
"By publicizing this and bringing attention to this, we’re hoping people understand they can file a complaint against licensees and they can take action,” a representative with the state Department of Commerce and Insurance said.
But the state’s investigation and hearing took nearly a year and a half. In that time, the funeral home closed on its own.
Gosey told WREG he closed the business due to a disagreement among the owners.
"It shouldn’t take that long to handle a case like this. It’s not an animal that got killed. It’s someone’s family member, somebody’s mom,” Ellis said.
State officials say their hands are tied because sometimes complaints don’t turn out to be true.
Ellis wondered how many more families went through the same heartache they did, but didn’t report it.
Gosey said Monday he always tried to honor the best intentions of families while balancing the cost of doing business. He said his family has operated his Arkadelphia, Arkansas business since the 1940s. He said Tennessee authorities granted him a license knowing he lived in Arkansas. They told him it would be okay to use a local business manager in Memphis. He maintained he would make regular visits to the Memphis business but not every day.
Arkansas officials say they’re aware of the Tennessee investigation but can’t comment any further.
Bell's lawyer said that his client is contesting the allegations raised against him and has asked the board for a trial, which is set for later this year.
The order was not contested by Glosey, who received a default judgment.