Beloved Care Funeral Services owner: 'I'm the victim'

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) James Gamble, the owner and director of Beloved Care Funeral Services, said Thursday that despite ongoing investigations, he's done nothing wrong.

"Seems like everyone's coming out of the woodwork to try to find something, but there's nothing there!" said Gamble. "I'm a little disappointed. My feelings are hurt."

On Tuesday, the Kern County coroner's office took possession of nine bodies that were allegedly improperly stored at the funeral home, 717 E. Brundage Lane.

Police detectives are conducting a fraud investigation into the financial practices of the Beloved Care Funeral Services. A California Department of Consumer Affairs Cemetery and Funeral Bureau representative was also on scene conducting an investigation into the business practices of the funeral home.

Wednesday, detectives and Bakersfield Code Enforcement officers conducted further investigation into licensing compliance of the facility. All of these investigations are ongoing.

Gamble admited that one of the bodies had been at his site for one month, awaiting cremation.

"These were some bodies that were embalmed that were being transitioned to be cremated," said Gamble, who added he has refrigeration at his business, which remains open. Gamble said he is just as confused, if not more, than anybody else about the recent events.

"I haven't done anything wrong. I'm a victim in this," he said.

But, others see things very differently.

Pamela Harris produced receipts showing she paid Gamble $1,200 for her mother's funeral and cremation. Reba Jean Walker, 77, died on March 21, 2013. The funeral service was done at Beloved Care, but it would take longer than three months for Harris to get her mother's ashes. Harris kept notes and dates of when she traveled from her Tehachapi home to Beloved Care for the ashes - between April and May, a total of five trips.

"It was always something, it was always something, I kept getting the runaround," said Harris.

What worried Harris most, she said, is that she kept wondering where her mother's body was being stored since no ashes had been produced.

Harris said she was told her mother's body was at the Kern County coroner's office. She went there and said she was told there were "financial reasons" why her mother's work had not been completed. A document from Union Cemetery states that Walker was cremated on May 25, 2013, more than than two months after the elderly woman had died and Harris had paid Gamble $1,200.

A letter written by Gamble to Harris states he would deliver her mother's ashes along with a butterfly keepsake pendant, an engraved plaque for her mother's remains, and a memory book to her Tehachapi home. Harris said she never received anything. She finally picked up her mother's ashes in June 2013.

"This is my mom right here," said Harris as she picked up a photograph of her mother and held it to her chest. "She didn't deserve that, she didn't deserve that."

The coroner's office has identified all nine decedents that were located in the funeral home. Families of four of the decedents have been contacted. The coroner's office is in the process of locating and contacting the remaining five families.

The coroner's office role in this investigation is providing the decedents family's with their options regarding the disposition of their loved ones. Those options include fulfilling their contract with Beloved Care, choosing another funeral home or a cremation facilitated by the Kern County Coroner's Office.

Police urge anyone who believes they may have been defrauded by Beloved Care Funeral Services to call them at (661) 327-7111.