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Recent client defends Downard Funeral Home as investigation continues

Downard Funeral Home and owner Lance Peck have been under investigation since Sept. 3. Pocatello police announced Sept. 23 that the investigation is considered a criminal investigation. | Kalama Hines,
POCATELLO — Downard Funeral Home has been closed since Sept. 3, when investigators taped off the business and retrieved numerous decomposing bodies from inside the facility.
Three weeks later, Pocatello police announced a criminal investigation was underway into Downard and owner Lance Peck. It continues today but few details have been released about the investigation and nobody has been charged.
Police have confirmed that computers at the business were seized during the execution of a search warrant and have been sent to a forensics laboratory in Boise for examination.
During the search, officers recovered 12 bodies, unidentified cremated ashes and the remains of 50 fetuses.
“Officers stress that it will take time to analyze all the information contained on the computers and the files before they are presented to the Bannock County Prosecutor’s Office,” the release says.
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Through the process of the investigation, there has been a great deal of criticism thrown at Peck. But some others have been quick to support him, claiming he is a friendly, pillar-of-the-community sort. Tim England has known him for years and has nothing but positive things to say about him.
“I personally feel like it was one of those deals — that he ‘niced’ himself into a hole that he couldn’t dig out of,” England told “I think he’s that type of guy — I would be more surprised if that’s not the case.”
The funeral business, England explained, is very much part of the service industry. Funeral homes like Downard are providing the recently deceased and their family members the service of remembrance, and occasionally families are unable to afford such service at the time it is needed.
According to England, it is far from uncommon to see a funeral home director, like Peck, cover the costs of services with a payment agreement. It is also somewhat common, England said, that funeral homes have challenges collecting the balance but that is a “huge” part of the business.
He sees the situation as the intersection of lacking revenues and elevating operational costs that painted Peck into a corner. Then, all it took was a mechanical mishap, like the cremation chamber explosion Peck reported to Idaho’s Division of Occupational and Professional Licenses investigators on March 24.
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Of course, England said, it is best to repair a broken machine, like a crematory, within a week. But that is not always possible, especially given production and delivery difficulties resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I don’t know if you’ve tried to order parts for anything in the past year and a half — it’s been stupid,” he said.
England defends Peck as a recent client of Downard who has been directly affected. His grandfather died in July and the services and cremation were handled by Downard. Like many who have recently received cremated remains from Downard, England and his family had concerns. But for the Englands, it went further.
“We were really involved with the investigators because one of the bodies they recovered looked a lot like my grandpa,” he said. “It was decided that it wasn’t (grandpa). … But we’re still kinda concerned that we got proper remains.”
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England said his family looked into testing the DNA of the ashes, which is a possibility. But the cost of such a test is beyond the family’s means.
There are options, he said, like suing Downard and the Pecks for the cost of the tests. But, given the vast number of potential victims, it is impossible to even consider that a viable option. The Englands decided that it was better to not pursue anything further.
“It’s a weird situation anyway, and it’s not going to bring grandpa back,” he said. “It’s a lose-lose.”
Beyond his previous personal interaction with Peck, England has a very unique vantage point regarding the entire situation. Out of high school, he spent more than a year working at Colonial Funeral Home in Pocatello. He has seen the business from behind the curtains and has more understanding than most.
The smell that many reported surrounding Downard for months has been an unexplained concern. asked one woman who has worked with Downard if the smell had been persistent for months. The volunteer, who declined to give her name, said her long history of being around and working in funeral homes prevented her from making that assessment because the smell had attached itself to her and could be identified even when she was nowhere near the funeral home.
“There’s a very distinct smell that happens, and it’s quick,” England explained. “Rigor mortis sets in, the first stages of it, within like 15 minutes. … It’s very easy to tell, and it’s very quick.”
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But reports of the smell becoming overwhelming weren’t reported until months after the crematory broke.
In speaking with students from Pocatello High School, which is directly across from Downard, learned the smell had only been evident for about a week, but that it was very substantial.
According to England, funeral homes use several “tricks” to combat the smell. An ozone generator proves most efficient and would have disguised the stench even for people who were not around it daily.
“An ozone machine, it’ll cut everything down,” he said. “If an ozone machine was in use there, it would have been … at least in the beginning, people from outside may not have even known.”
A malfunction of an ozone generator would again suggest financial difficulties, which is why, despite facing difficult questions regarding the remains of his own grandfather, England wonders if Peck himself was a victim.
“I halfway feel bad about all these happenings — I wonder if he was too nice.”
The post Recent client defends Downard Funeral Home as investigation continues appeared first on East Idaho News.

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