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Sheriff's Office looking into report that Tomaszewski improperly handled stillborn baby's remains

By Howard B. Owens
     Michael Tomaszewski

It isn't just headstones Michael Tomaszewski is suspected of not delivering to cemeteries but bodies, too, including the remains of a stillborn baby.

Chief Deputy Joseph Graff, Sheriff's Office, said that investigators are looking into multiple incidences of mishandling remains at Tomaszewski's facilities on West Main Street Road, Batavia.

Graff wouldn't elaborate other than to confirm the investigation into the remains of a baby and a veteran.

The investigation into remains being stored at the Michael S. Tomaszewski Funeral Home & Cremation Chapel, and possibly at Tomaszewski's adjoining properties, began in January 2019.

That's when Genesee County Coroner Jeff McIntire received a call from the estranged stepdaughter of Peter Vandetta, a 20-year Army veteran, who died in April 2018.

Ronda Grabowski said she wasn't notified of Vandetta's death immediately, but became suspicious after reviewing his death certificate.

She contacted Coroner McIntire and asked him to find out where her stepfather's body was buried.

McIntire found the death certificate and discovered Vandetta's passing was one of his cases, so he tried contacting the Bath (NY) National Cemetary, where Vandetta was supposed to be interred, to find out if he was buried there. McIntyre said he made a few calls, each time being told there was no record of Peter Vandetta at the cemetery.

He followed up with Tomaszewski and McIntire said the funeral director assured him he had taken Vandetta's remains to Bath and he could provide him with the grave coordinates.

After being told by officials at Bath once again that Vandetta was not lain to rest at the national cemetery, McIntire asked Tomaszewski to provide him with the grave coordinates. But, when pressed, Tomaszewski couldn't do it, he said.

At that point, McIntire turned the investigation over to the Genesee County Sheriff's Office.

A short time later, McIntire received a call from an investigator and was told that the remains of an adult male at been located in the garage at the Tomaszewski funeral home.

McIntire ordered the remains delivered to the Monroe County Medical Examiner's office for positive identification. That ME's office did confirm the remains were Vandetta's.

Grabowski told 13WHAM, The Batavian's news partner, that she confronted Tomaszewski about the situation. She said he told her the cousin who was supposed to handle arrangements never contacted him with instructions on how to proceed.

After the ID was confirmed, a cousin apparently authorized the return of the remains of Vandetta to Tomaszewski, who published Vandetta's obituary on Aug. 6, 2019, with services to be held at the funeral home on Aug. 11. Vandetta is now interred at Bath National Cemetary.

Asked for his thoughts on the case, McIntire, himself a military veteran, said, "You know, I can’t even tell you what my thoughts are. I don’t even understand. I don't know. I hope the system works and we’re able to find out what happened and what went wrong."

Graff said there has been an active investigation into the Vandetta case since January 2019, and he also confirmed that the Sheriff's Office has been contacted about the possible inappropriate handling of other human remains. Graff declined to say how many complaints there might be but did confirm that one involves a stillborn baby.  

District Attorney Lawrence Friedman said he has been aware of the investigation but has not been handed a case yet by the Sheriff's Office so couldn't comment further on possible charges.

Chief deputy Graff also said he and other investigators were kept busy fielding calls from more possible victims of Tomaszewski.

On Thursday, the Sheriff's Office announced the arrest of the funeral director on about 200 charges involving the alleged misuse of prepaid funeral arrangement funds and Tomaszewski's possible failure to purchase headstones and gravesites as paid for and promised to clients.

It's alleged that in the initial set of charges, Tomaszewski may have misused about $525,000 in funeral funds he deposited.

Earlier this year, Tomaszewski and his company, Acme Holdings of N.Y. Inc., filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. He lists $1,094,346 in assets against $3,242,390 in liabilities.

If convicted, Tomaszewski will certainly be ordered to pay restitution to victims. Restitution cannot be discharged, like other debts, in bankruptcy court.

Previously: Local funeral director charged with stealing money from customers

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