State, Resort Seeking Burial Laws

OCEAN CITY — City Solicitor Guy Ayres has been petitioned by the Ocean City Police Department to draw up a local ordinance that would make it unlawful to improperly bury or dispose of a body in Ocean City.

Ayres said this week that he had been approached by members of the Ocean City Police Department to draw up an ordinance that would be presented at the Police Commission level and, if found to be in order by that body, could be presented to the Mayor and City Council for final approval.

“It’s on my radar of things to do this weekend, but I haven’t started working on it as of yet,” said Ayres, “but yes, I have been asked to work on something as per a request from the police department.”

Coincidentally, there is a bill involving similar subject matter set to go before the General Assembly, titled House Bill 12, which will reportedly be introduced next week in Annapolis, that would make it a misdemeanor offense to improperly bury or dispose of a deceased body.

Currently, there is technically no state law that prohibits improper burial or disposal of a body, as was infamously brought to light in the 2007 case in which a woman was cleared of first-, second-, and third-degree murder charges after police discovered a recently stillborn fetus wrapped in a towel under her bathroom sink, and later, found three more fetuses around their Ocean City residence.

After a six-week whirlwind of national spotlight and ridicule, the charges were dropped due to prosecutors being unable to provide proof of life of the fetuses.

Ocean City Police spokesman Mike Levy says the department is remaining tight-lipped about the matter until it goes to the Police Commission level.

“Until there is something technically drawn up, we really have no comment about it,” said Levy. “If it does get drawn up and goes to the Police Commission level, we will make a statement at that time.”

Ayres noted, however, that if the bill on the state level passes, the town of Ocean City might not have to pass similar legislation locally as state law essentially trumps local laws.

“If the house bill ends up passing, we may not have to write one,” said Ayres, “but I would still have to make sure that the house bill covers everything that they had a desire to cover in the matter.”

The house bill clearly states that the only legal place to dispose or bury a body would be a family burial plot, a crematory, a cemetery or a funeral establishment, and any individual found to be in violation of the potential law would be punished by way of a misdemeanor offense and no more than 1 year imprisonment, up to a $5,000 fine or both.