When Mike Pelletier died of a brain hemorrhage while hospitalized for COVID-19 on May 6, his daughter Melissa arranged to have his body transported by Affordable Cremation Solution of Lewiston, which state regulators clamped down on this week after discovering decaying bodies there.

Mike and Melissa Pelletier Submitted photo

Melissa Pelletier’s decision to call the Main Street business for assistance began a three-week odyssey where his remains lay in the business’ unrefrigerated storage area as its owner offered one excuse after another about why nothing had been done with it, the Manchester woman said Friday.

“I called every day,” she said, “and every day they came up with different stories,” promising it would be taken of “tomorrow,” or “in two days” or soon.

Finally, just before the Memorial Day weekend, Pelletier had heard enough. She said her 63-year-old father, who came into her life when she was 13 and adopted her formally in 2018, deserved better.

She said when another cremation firm, in Gorham, picked up the body there it found him in a room with other remains, none dealt with as required.

Pelletier said learning he’d been “just sitting there rotting in the basement in a bag” left her stunned, sad and determined to seek justice for the hardworking truck driver from Bridgton who’d loved her. She was, she said, pretty much his only family.

“I’m not letting this go,” Pelletier said. “There’s no way.”

The state’s Board of Funeral Service this week suspended the license of Affordable Cremation Solution and its owner, Kenneth Kincer, an Auburn resident who’s been in the business for almost two decades without running afoul of regulators. It accused him of unprofessional conduct and creating a public health problem by mishandling the remains of customers.

On Tuesday, the state’s chief medical examiner’s office took custody of the bodies and cremains found at the business and took them to its office, according to Kristin Racine, an attorney for Maine’s Office of Professional & Occupational Regulation.

“We have been in contact with the next of kin for each individual and are working with them to ensure their loved one is taken care of,” Lindsey Chasteen, office administrator for the medical examiner’s office, said Friday.

Chasteen said the office is not involved in the investigation but offered its support and expertise “for the handling and disposition of the remains” at Affordable Cremation Solution.

A state investigator last week found “an odor of decomposition” and the unrefrigerated remains of 11 people at the 643 Main St. establishment, as well as “reddish brown fluid” that appeared to flow down a drain.

A hearing is slated for July 13 to determine whether a temporary suspension of the business’ licenses should be extended.

Neither the board’s manager nor its investigator could be reached for comment Friday. Its chairman, Chad Poitras, said Friday that he was told by state lawyers that he could not discuss the case.

The lawyer for Affordable Cremation Solution, John Clifford of Lisbon, said Friday that he had no comment.

Pelletier said she’s talked with other families who had the same experience with Affordable Cremation Solution and some who had it worse.

The state of Maine this week closed down Affordable Cremation Solution in Lewiston and pulled its license after finding stinking, unrefrigerated bodies. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

When she spoke with the state Attorney General’s Office about the case this week, she said, someone there asked if she’d gotten the right body.

Pelletier said when she heard the question, her “body just shrunk” in horror.

Fortunately, she said, the Gorham firm had positively identified her father before cremating him. But others apparently are left uncertain. Some may not have even located missing remains, she said.

“I feel for them,” Pelletier said.

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