Rockford man accused of stealing van, body from funeral home arrested

Published: Mar. 20, 2023 at 12:59 PM CDT|Updated: Mar. 20, 2023 at 6:16 PM CDT
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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) - A man wanted for stealing a van and body from a Rockford funeral home in January is now in custody.

Deon Howard, 23, was arrested March 19 in Green Bay, Wisconsin, according to Rockford police. The arrest comes nearly two months after Howard was charged with unlawful possession of a stolen vehicle and abuse of a corpse.

On January 21, a van carrying the body of 47-year-old Curtis Brown was stolen from Collins & Stone Funeral Home on Fifth Street. On January 22, police found the abandoned van in Chicago’s Calumet Heights neighborhood. Brown’s body was discovered a day later in South Chicago.

In the hours following the theft, Rockford police released surveillance images, and Howard was quickly identified as the suspect.

Rockford Police Chief Carla Redd confirmed the vehicle was left unlocked and running before the theft.

“In 25 years, this is the first time we’ve ever heard of anything like this,” said Redd at a news conference on January 24. “My heart goes out to the family, as I know that they were recently notified of what had transpired. I hope we never have to see anything like this again.”

23 News spoke with the Brown family after their loved one’s body was found.

“My sister is looking to sue,” said Brown’s aunt, Sharon Pearson. “She was at peace with his passing, but for his body to get stolen, now it’s an outrage.”

Brown’s body was later released to family in Mississippi for funeral services.

On February 1, Collins and Stone released the following statement regarding the incident:

“We strive to lessen the burden of bereaved families as they face a very difficult time and we work diligently to comply with standards of regulations that apply to the funeral home profession. Our goal is to always provide quality services that our community has come to expect from us,” said Funeral Home Director, Brandy Collins. “We will continue to partner with law enforcement and look forward to justice being served. Our sympathy and sincere prayers are with the family and friends affected by this crime.”

According to the Brown County Sheriff’s Office, Howard was arrested during a traffic stop after becoming argumentative with officers. He faces additional charges in Wisconsin for obstructing and weapon-related crimes. It’s unclear when Howard will be extradited to Illinois.