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Bakersfield Funeral Home updates security after ashes are stolen

Posted at 8:04 PM, Jan 10, 2018
and last updated 2018-01-10 23:04:52-05

A Bakersfield family is still seeking closure Wednesday after their son Justin Harris’s ashes were stolen from The Bakersfield Funeral Home the day after Thanksgiving.

Justin Harris, 28, passed away on November 11 after a drug overdose. His family was hoping to keep part of his cremations close to their hearts.

“My friend gave me a special necklace and it holds ashes so I was going to put some in my necklace," said Justin’s mother Angelia Harris.

Harris’ sentimental plans were changed after a Bakersfield Funeral Home employee made a mistake. 

"The alarm was not set. We do realize that it was our fault," Bakersfield Funeral Home Consultant Sarah Beltran said.

"The owner finally admitted that he didn't believe he set the alarm," Harris said.

The funeral home said five family members ashes were stolen from the storing area during the November break in, including Justin's. Other items belonging to the company were also stolen.

"Our credit cards were missing from the business, our log book that kept everyone's name and identification numbers and the computer," Beltran said.

Beltran also said no personal information was compromised when the computer was stolen.

"It automatically locks once we clock out, everything gets logged off," Beltran said.

Since the break in, the funeral home has installed security surveillance and no longer uses the original storing area. It now keeps all ashes in a locked volt.

The Harris family is still left without closure for their son Justin and is hoping the cremations get returned to them and the other families impacted.

“It's just mind bottling and it just makes me sick to my stomach," Harris concluded.

Beltran said The Bakersfield Funeral Home did reach out to California Cemetery and Funeral Bureau to notify the state about the break in, “Our director did speak with the Cemetery and Funeral Bureau and they did say we are not at fault all we had to do was have it in a space that has locked doors.”

23abc reached out to officials at the California Cemetery and Funeral Bureau, but they were unable to confirm that the funeral home contacted them because the necessary employees were out of the office at the time.

A search on the California Consumer Affairs website sections 1-9 shows, the Bureau fined the Bakersfield Funeral home $1,001 in 2012 for a separate, unrelated financial dispute among a previous customer. 

The Harris family also started a go fund me page and is now offering a reward for the safe return of their sons ashes and or any information that could lead to the person who took them.

Families who wish to contact the bureau themselves can visit this link.