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Central figure in cemetery probe found dead

MIAMI, Florida (CNN) -- A central figure in an investigation into the desecration of graves at two Florida Jewish cemeteries is dead of an apparent suicide, police said Thursday.

Peter Hartmann, 45, was found dead late Wednesday in the garage of his parents' Boca Raton home, apparently from carbon monoxide poisoning. A car was running, police said, and the garage was full of smoke.

Hartmann was the general manager of the Menorah Gardens Cemetery chain that had come under fire for allegedly digging up bodies without notifying their relatives and, in some cases, losing the remains of the deceased.

Menorah Gardens is operated by Service Corporation International, one of the country's largest providers of funeral and cemetery services.

In a recent class action lawsuit, attorneys for several families of people buried at the two cemeteries said they found evidence of bodies being moved without telling families and showed a videotape of human remains scattered in the wood near one of the cemeteries.

Florida Attorney General Bob Butterworth is investigating charges against the funeral company.

A spokesperson for the Palm Beach County sheriff said the office was treating the death as a suicide but was waiting for the medical examiner to make a report.




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