First Choice saga continues

Published 6:31 am Monday, May 13, 2013

MURFREESBORO – A second person with alleged connections to a funeral home here forced to close due to  violating several state laws has claimed innocence.

Waverly Joyner Jr. admits to his employment at First Choice Funeral Home, but nothing beyond that fact.

“I never knew about the (North Carolina Board of Funeral Service) hearing for First Choice Funeral Home that was held Jan. 10,” Joyner said.

Actually, two hearings where conducted by the NCBFS, one on Jan. 10 and the other on Feb. 13. The Board heard evidence concerning the operations of First Choice Funeral Home. As part of the Board’s finding of facts, First Choice was not licensed to sell preneed services at any time, nor were David and Gilda Robertson, listed as the officers of the corporation owning this funeral home, licensed by the Board or registered as trainees. The Board added that Christine Stephenson and Waverly Joyner Jr., both employees of First Choice, never received their license nor did they register as trainees.

Combined, the NCBFS concluded that, based on law, First Choice Funeral Home committed 31 violations. Included among those infractions were that Allen Ladd Jones failed to actively manage the business; the Robertsons and Joyner practiced funeral directing without a license; engaged in false and misleading advertising; engaged in activities that require a preneed license; failing to file a notification of death within 24 hours of assuming custody of human remains; failed to file a death certificate within the required five days; and engaged in fraud in obtaining a chapel registration. As a result, the NCBFS permanently revoked First Choice’s establishment permit.

“This only thing I signed was notification of death and nothing else,” Joyner said in a prepared statement delivered earlier this week to the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald.

He further alleged that, “David Robertson and Gilda Robertson are/were the owners of First Choice Funeral Home, not Waverly Joyner Jr.”

“I have never taken any classes as (a) funeral home licensed employee and never engaged in providing any information or misleading families to the funeral home,” Joyner stated.

“I was only a licensed Notary Public and nothing more,” he added. “A majority of the time I was never at the funeral home, and don’t understand why my name was brought up at the hearing. Many people know me from working in the funeral home and that’s what I love to do. When the time comes for me to get my license for funeral home directing I will do so legitimately.”

Joyner said he worked at First Choice for about a year and a half. He said during that time he was never involved in pre-need contracts, selling, counseling or, in his words, “anything else.”

Joyner said the News-Herald’s story published last month about the NCBFS findings were not true on his behalf.

“I have never practiced funeral directing because I was not licensed. Also, I have never been arrested for (my) involvement with First Choice Funeral Home,” he said.

All information published in the News-Herald’s original story about this case was first confirmed by calling the NCBFS in Raleigh. Also, the story did not mention any arrests that we made as result of the state investigation, only the sanctions handed down by the NCBFS.

“I personally want to thank all individual who have contacted me, sharing their support, knowing I am a person of high moral standards and would not do nothing to tarnish my reputation,” Joyner concluded.

Stephenson earlier responded to this newspaper regarding the NCBFS findings. She admitted to being a member of the First Choice Funeral Home Board of Directors, but adamantly denies ever having been employed by this Murfreesboro-based business.

“I have never been an employee of First Choice Funeral Home in Murfreesboro,” stated Stephenson. “I never acted as a director, trainee, performed any duties that would indicate employment, never did any office work / paperwork, served any families for First Choice or worked at any of their funerals.

“I served on that board and, as such, referred families to First Choice just as I have referred families in need to other resources,” she noted. “And in response to the rumors that are circulating that I was arrested in reference to this, it is not true.”


About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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