ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — Collins and Stone Funeral Home director Brandy Collins released a statement Wednesday after a van containing the body of Curtis Brown was stolen on January 21st.

“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,” Collins said in a statement. “Our goal is to always provide quality services that our community has come to expect from us. 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.”

Collins said she has been cooperating with the Rockford Police Department since the crime.

According to police, a grey 2012 Chrysler Town & Country van belonging to Collins & Stone Funeral Home, 128 S. 5th Street, containing the body of an adult, was taken on Saturday, January 21st, around 2:19 p.m.

Rockford Police Chief Carla Redd said the vehicle was left running and unattended in the parking lot.

Police later identified Deon Howard, 23, as the suspect.

Photo: Rockford Police Department

Howard fled with the van towards Chicago, police said. The van was located in the 1400 block of E. 87th Street, but the body was missing.

Brown’s body was found the following Monday in the 8200 block of S. Manistee Street in Chicago, about 2 miles away. Brown’s remains were transported back to the Winnebago County Coroner’s Office.

Howard was identified as the suspect and charged with Unlawful Possession of a Stolen Vehicle and Abuse of a Corpse.

Anyone with information on his whereabouts is asked to contact Rockford Police at 815-966-2900.

Cindy Howard, Brown’s mother, said in an interview with Eyewitness News that she is upset that she did not know that his body had been stolen until days later.

Howard still lives in Mississippi, Brown’s home state. She found out when she read the news online that there was a missing body from the funeral home where she left her son.

Brown was the father of 12 and had family all over the country, including in Rockford, where he lived. He died from a heart attack that he experienced while at work.

Collins was put on probation in March 2021 and fined $10,000 for unprofessional conduct and “failure to account for personal property.” She was also accused of “assisting with unlicensed practice”, according to information from the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation.

Collins has 13 violations on record since 2009, which resulted in several fines and reprimands from the state.

Her license was suspended for two months in 2017 for not filing several death certificates in a timely manner.

Collins is on probation until May 2023.