When sheriff deputies arrived at the F & M McLendon Funeral Home in Wadesboro, North Carolina in November 2010 to serve an eviction notice, they were surprised to discover three corpses left in the basement. One body was inside a silver casket. Another was on a gurney in a black body bag. Detectives could not recall the location of the third. Mary McLendon, the former funeral director, told state investigators the dates of death were all within the last two weeks. However, that was not the case. Upon further examination, investigators concluded the bodies were inside the funeral home for between one and five months. The sheriff’s office moved the bodies to another funeral home for storage until the families could make arrangements.
When the story reached the local news, family members were outraged to find out their loved ones were inside the funeral home. Investigators believed the funeral home failed to take the bodies to the crematorium despite accepting money from family members to do so. State officials suspended McLendon’s license and revoked the operating permit for the funeral home. She was ordered to complete education classes and fully reimburse all of the affected families.
In the months and years following the initial foreclosure, the Wadesboro Police Department worked in conjunction with the State Board of Funeral Directors on reports of misconduct at the funeral home. Frustrated customers alleged they paid for services or headstones that were never received or reimbursed. Meanwhile, during the investigation, McLendon made arrangements with the bank and reopened to continue operating. It was during this time that F & M McLendon acquired two more bodies. Ultimately, the State Board of Funeral Directors decided to revoke the funeral home’s license and shut down the business. Since this closure was a civil matter and did not require the local police, there was no search of the property before the building was permanently closed.
Soon after, the state filed charges against Mary McLendon for obtaining property under false pretenses by accepting a $1,500 payment for cremation services and not providing such services, delivery of the remains, or refunding the money to the family. One family attempted to contact the funeral home for three or four months to locate a family member. The family was given different excuses and no logical information as to the whereabouts of the body including that “the crematorium was backed up.” Investigators contacted the crematory listed on the death certificate. There was no record of his body that could be found. The case against McLendon went to a jury trial where she was found to be guilty. She was sentenced to serve 6 to 17 months in prison. An official report concluded that McLendon knowingly and willingly embezzled, misapplied, or converted funeral funds for his/her use.
In June 2014, on the day of sentencing, the judge ordered Mary McLendon to give up the whereabouts of the lost body. Accompanied by the local police and the sheriff’s office, she led investigators to a back room inside the funeral home where they discovered not one but two bodies. Both had been inside for at least two years and were so badly decomposed they were unidentifiable. One of the bodies was discovered wrapped in a blanket in a casket. The second was lying on a table. Investigators worked with a medical examiner to identify each of the bodies. Investigators were worried there could be more. Officers used cadaver dogs to search a 30-acre parcel of property owned by the funeral director and a 4-acre pond, but nothing was found. After being left vacant and abandoned for years, the F & M McLendon Funeral Home was demolished in April 2021.
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