The Tazewell County Sheriff’s Department has been investigating reports for more than a week concerning irregularities at Katy’s Pet Cemetery and Crematory, but the investigation will be placed on hold temporarily while a grieving family deals with the owner’s death.

Joe Abts, owner of Katy’s Pet Cemetery, was interviewed by Tazewell County Sheriff’s Department investigators recently. Wednesday he took his own life. 

The department has had several officers out at the cemetery. There they found freezers with the remains of animals, which is not illegal, said Chief Deputy Jeff Lower. He did not know how many animals were in the freezers.

“We do have an open investigation right now, but as far as getting into details it’s a little early,” said Lower. “Obviously we know what happened today and that kind of complicates everything, so we need to try to get our heads together and figure out where to go from here.

“He is the only owner of the pet cemetery. It’s an ongoing investigation — it’s an open case, let me put it that way. Out of respect to the family and everybody involved we’re just kind of on hold right now to let things settle. But yes, there is an investigation open related to some claims.”

Lower said, “Investigators are just trying to determine who these animals belong to and whether or not they have been claimed to be destroyed or not,” said Lower. “That’s where we’re kind of at, sifting through the evidence right now, trying to understand whose animals these were and try to determine if they were supposed to be cremated or buried.

“We’re still trying to determine the extent and whether or not people received their ashes or not. It’s unfortunate that he chose to end it like this. There’s nothing out there that’s worth him taking his life, so I don’t quite understand that.”

Follow Sharon Woods Harris at Twitter.com/sharrispekin