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Funeral Director Pleads Guilty To Giving Wrong Ashes To Two Families

12/04/2010 10:21 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The Fagerstrom family was gathered at a picturesque lake in Wisconsin, spreading the ashes of the recently deceased John Fagerstrom, age 49.

As the ashes drifted away on the water, they found a troubling piece of news: another man's information on the metal ID tag that came attached to the ashes.

So they called Marcee Dane, funeral director at the Burnett Dane Funeral Home in Libertyville, Illinois.

Dane reassured them that nothing was wrong. And then, according to prosecutors in the case against her, she panicked.

In fact, Dane had sent the Fagerstrom family the ashes of an 81-year-old man, whose name was not given to the media. That man's family had already buried Fagerstrom's ashes in Des Plaines, IL, thinking they were his.

Dane's solution: she found unidentified ashes at the Lake County crematorium, put them in a cardboard box, bought a metal tag from the hardware store, and engraved Fagerstrom's information on it, according to TribLocal. She then called the family, apologized for the error, and sent them the new box -- another set of ashes that didn't belong to John Fagerstrom.

When she learned that authorities were looking into the mix-up, Dane traveled to Des Plaines, where the 81-year-old's family had buried the ashes she'd given them. Under the guise of planting flowers, she dug up the urn containing Fagerstrom's actual ashes and removed the identification tag, hoping to cover up her error, the Sun-Times reports.

But Lake County prosecutors unraveled the tangled web Dane had woven, and pressed felony charges of desecrating human remains.

"Marcee Dane is a caring young funeral director," her defense attorney said. "Her actions were not motivated by greed or malice, rather her actions were directed by her desire to shield these families from further grief and further disruption of the mourning process."

Dane pled guilty to the charges in court today. She faces a 30-day sentence, a $10,000 fine, and 30 months of probation. She is also barred from ever working in the funeral industry.

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