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Friday, Mar 28 2014 04:53 PM

Funeral home owner charged with failing to bury bodies in reasonable time

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    Beloved Care Funeral Home at 717 E. Brundage Lane in Bakersfield is shown in a January 2014 file photo.

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BY JASON KOTOWSKI Californian staff writer jkotowski@bakersfield.com

The embattled owner of Beloved Care Funeral Home has been charged with three counts of failing to bury bodies within a reasonable time.

James O. Gamble Jr. turned himself in on March 19 and is free after posting bond, police Sgt. Joe Grubbs said Friday. His next court hearing is scheduled for April 10.

The counts against him are misdemeanors.

Gamble could not be reached by phone Friday. The building that housed the funeral home now has a banner and a sign calling it the Freedom Worship Center. The Beloved Care Funeral Home sign that previously adorned the building is gone.

The gates around the building were locked early Friday afternoon.

Beloved Care has been the subject of several investigations.

The Kern County coroner's office removed nine bodies from the home in early January that it said "were not being adequately housed."

Also, inspectors from the city's Code Enforcement Division found electrical, mechanical, plumbing and building violations at the business. Chief Code Enforcement Officer Randy Fidler said at the time that other work at Beloved Care was done without proper permits, including the building of walls and the construction of what he called an "illegal structure" between the funeral home and its chapel.

And finally, both Gamble's license as an embalmer and the license for the funeral home had lapsed, according to the state Cemetery and Funeral Bureau.

Gamble made an appearance on KERN AM 1180's Ralph Bailey Show in January and said the bodies removed from the funeral home were "preserved, cleaned, sanitized and stored." He said five of the bodies were ready for transport to crematories, and three had just arrived.

But he also said he'd had one embalmed body for 30 days. Embalming does not stop the body's deterioration, and most funeral homes use refrigeration to prevent it.

The funeral home had refrigeration capability, but it was not hooked up.

Gamble was cited in March 2013 for code violations at Beloved Care's previous location in the 4800 block of East Brundage Lane, according to records.

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