PARMA, Ohio -- Parma Police say after Fox 8 News aired a story about theft allegations being leveled against the owner of a store that sells caskets, urns and headstones to grieving families, 20 new victims have come forward.
Detectives are now investigating a total of 27 separate cases, in which former customers accuse Karen Hayes, the owner of The Casket Store on Ridge Road, of taking their money and not delivering products as she had promised.
“You've got somebody that's coming in there, that's grieving the loss of a family member and then they have to go through all of that and the emotions and everything attached to that. It really is disturbing on that level. It's almost like these people are being victimized twice,” said Captain Kevin Riley.
The investigation was launched after an 84-year-old Parma man went to police and told them that he paid Karen Hayes nearly $4,000 two years ago for a headstone that was never delivered.
Frank Palkovic told Fox 8 News that before his 82-year-old wife Frances passed away, it was her wish that he buy a double headstone, and that they be buried side by side. Palkovic said he had a sense of urgency.
“We all die but I'm dying too and I lived this long. She's my wife and that's what I believed in," he said.
Palkovic said he followed a friend's advice and went to The Casket Store, but every time he tried to find out why the gravestone had not been delivered, Karen Hayes kept putting him off.
“Oh we`re working on it, just wait a while, just wait a while, we`ll get it,” he said.
When it became clear that the headstone would not be delivered, Hayes reportedly promised to give Palkovic a refund, but it turned out to be another empty promise.
After waiting two years, he filed a complaint with Parma Police and Karen Hayes was arrested on a charge of theft from an elderly person.
“She would always say she was a good person. How the hell can she be a good person? That's my feelings on her and whatever happens to her it's her own fault,” said Palkovic.
The 84-year-old said if Hayes is convicted, he is hoping the court will force her to make restitution to him and the other customers.