ORLANDO, Fla. — The Florida Board of Funeral, Cemetery, and Consumer Services has voted to revoke the license of a controversial Orlando funeral home under fire from families and fellow businesses, finding multiple legal violations after a year-long investigation.
Celebrations of Life Mortuary and Cremation Services, located on Clarcona-Ocoee Road, allowed its owner, Tekeavias Byrd, to act as a funeral director and deal directly with families, despite Byrd lacking the appropriate license.
Investigators also found the business failed to properly cremate a body.
The state has been investigating the facility since at least last November when WFTV witnessed Byrd demanding thousands of dollars in payment in order to release a body to a rival funeral home at the family’s request.
That fell far outside normal practices, other funeral home operators said. Typically, the two businesses would negotiate a payment among each other without involving the family. They also said the services Byrd had provided until that point amounted to a fraction of his demands.
On Wednesday, WFTV publicized the plight of Cassandra Jackson, who said, rather than offering a rental, Byrd told her to buy a $5,000 custom casket and wrap to use for her daughter’s viewing before her body was cremated, with the promise that the casket would be preserved and stored for future family members’ funerals.
The casket wound up in a storage unit, and the owner of the unit stopped paying the bill. Jackson’s friends discovered the casket being sold on Facebook Marketplace for $78 last month after the unit was auctioned off.
The seller said the casket’s new owner did not want to turn it back over to the family.
“I just want the casket back. That’s the last thing that she laid in,” Jackson said, shaking her head.
After Jackson’s story aired, other families, business owners and ex-employees began reaching out to celebrate the revocation of Celebration of Life’s license and share their stories.
Sheila Holliman said Byrd failed to deliver on thousands of dollars’ worth of promises for her husband’s funeral last year. She also claimed he tried to access her family’s funds behind their backs, which Byrd has denied.
Holliman’s son said he was happy to hear about the board’s decision, while Holliman herself said she was still angry with Byrd.
“We both went to the same church. We kind of sat by each other and kind of built the relationship at that point,” she recalled. “I feel like he took advantage of me.”
In addition to facing the loss of his business, Byrd is also facing a felony charge connected to a stolen rental vehicle, a lawsuit by a casket company over nonpayment, and a warrant in Broward County described on an arresting document only as “grand theft.”
Jason Matherly of We Wrap Caskets in Davie, Fla, said it might be connected to his situation. He claimed Byrd wrote him an invalid check in May, then closed the connected bank account two days later.
He said he skipped a lawsuit and went straight to his local police department to try to press charges. He said the story about Jackson prompted him to check in on the case for updates.
WFTV has emailed the Davie Police Department to try to confirm the details of the warrant and any connections to Matherly.
“It’s sad that there are people like him that’s taking advantage of people,” he said, believing Byrd would find a way to surface at another funeral home under a different name.
Byrd has not responded to multiple emails seeking statements or responses. During an on-camera interview in March, he claimed he was running an ethical business and investigators found nothing when they inspected.
“Whatever you’re trying to do to discredit me, it won’t work, love,” he said.
Byrd will have a few weeks to appeal the revocation of Celebration of Life’s license before it becomes final. Neither Byrd nor his representatives appeared before the board to offer a defense Thursday.
He also did not respond to an emailed question about whether he would appeal.
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