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State Suspends Church Hill Funeral Director’s License

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A longtime Church Hill funeral director allowed the body of a deceased man to decompose and embalmed it without permission, according to the state board that has suspended the director's license.

The body of the deceased — called "Client A" — was delivered to Chiles Funeral Home from Virginia Commonwealth Medical Center on Sept. 18, 2010, according to the board's findings of fact. It was left unrefrigerated for 72 hours and began to decompose, the findings state.

Virginia law specifies that a body "shall be maintained in refrigeration and shall not be embalmed in the absence of express permission by a next of kin of the deceased or a court order." Despite those requirements, the findings say, funeral director Oliver P. Chiles Jr. had the body embalmed. He testified to the board that he assumed the family consented "because they wanted an open casket funeral and to transport the remains to Connecticut."

At the first funeral, held in Virginia, family members "observed that Client A's lips and face were severely swollen" and reported "a strong odor emanating from the casket of the deceased."

When the body was flown to Connecticut, a family member reported seeing more swelling and bodily fluids, the findings state. "The Connecticut funeral director stated to the investigator that in his years in the funeral business, he had not seen a body in worse shape." The casket was closed at the second funeral.

The state Board of Funeral Directors and Embalmers held a formal hearing on the case Jan. 18. The board ordered Jan. 24 that Chiles' license to practice would be suspended indefinitely, for a minimum of one year. Chiles may petition the board for reinstatement after completing 10 hours of education in state laws and ethics.

Chiles was first granted his license in 1986. He is the vice president of Chiles Funeral Home, which has been in operation since 1933. Chiles couldn't be reached by phone Monday.

It's rare for the board to suspend a funeral director's license. The last time it happened in Richmond was in 2007.

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