Woman wonders where her husband's body is 7 months into Downard Funeral Home investigation - East Idaho News

Woman wonders where her husband’s body is 7 months into Downard Funeral Home investigation

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POCATELLO — Rhonda D’Amico was prepared for her husband’s death but there was no way she could have been prepared for the pain caused by the events that have unfolded since.

Eric D’Amico lost his battle with leiomyosarcoma, a rare and incurable cancer according to Rhonda, on Aug. 7, 2021. Prior to his death, Eric arranged for his cremation to be handled by someone he had known for 20 years and considered a personal friend — Lance Peck, owner of Downard Funeral Home.

Less than one month after she lost her life partner, Rhonda watched in horror as police found unidentified bodies and cremated remains inside Downard.

Eric’s body, which had not yet been cremated and should have been in the funeral home, was never found. And Rhonda says Peck, to this day, has not provided her with the whereabouts of Eric’s missing remains.

Speaking over the phone from her new home in Oregon, Rhonda told EastIdahoNews.com that her and her husband’s history with the Pecks makes the pain much deeper, and even more unforgivable.

“I’m not going to forgive Lance. I don’t have any intention of ever forgiving Lance,” she said.

Rhonda said it has taken this long — nearly seven months — to reach a point in her healing process where she was finally comfortable with telling her husband’s story. The process, she said, meant leaving her career and fleeing the only city she ever considered home.

Grieving the loss

The morning of Sept. 3, members of the Pocatello Police Department, Pocatello Fire Department, Bannock County Prosecutor’s Office and Bannock County Corner’s Office served a search warrant at Downard Funeral Home. An investigation into the business was initiated by reports of decomposing bodies found inside the building.

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Officers recovered 12 bodies, unidentified cremated ashes and the remains of 50 fetuses inside the funeral home.

It’s been seven months and nobody has been charged in connection with the investigation. Pocatello Police did not respond to a request from EastIdahoNews.com for an update on the case and Bannock County spokeswoman Emma Iannacone said the Bannock County Prosecutor’s Office could not comment because the situation is an ongoing investigation.

While she faces the trauma and grief brought on by that investigation, and the fact that her husband’s remains have yet to be recovered, Rhonda hopes not only to give her husband a voice but to create a community of support.

Rhonda is confident there are hundreds of families that, like her, battle with the fact that a loved one was lost, sold or destroyed by Peck and Downard. But, she added, there was never support provided — no grief counselors or trauma therapists brought in to assist families.

She screamed out for help after learning the fate of her husband’s remains, Rhonda said, but no one was there to answer.

And her discovery came with extra heartbreak.

As Rhonda explained, she and Eric spent every Tuesday night dancing at the Clydesdale Bar and Lounge. They were passionate country two-step dancers, she said. So, she made the decision to host a celebration of life at the Clydesdale on a Tuesday night.

Eric and Rhonda D'Amico
Eric and Rhonda D’Amico dance at the Clydesdale Bar and Lounge. | Courtesy Rhonda D’Amico

The event landed on Aug. 31, a night she spent mingling with friends and hearing stories about her husband and his positive impact on many lives — in large part, stories she had never heard before.

And one of the people in attendance was Peck himself.

“Lance Peck was at my husband’s celebration of life when he knew the gruesomeness that was going on within his own building,” she said. “That man hugged me and tried to provide comfort. That’s a violation of my person that I can’t describe.”

Three days later, she said, she was living on the high of the memories of her husband’s love when news of the raid broke.

Remembering Eric

While her family has found a way to memorialize Eric without possession of his remains, Rhonda wants his memory to live on, not as a victim of Downard Funeral Home, but as the teacher and mentor he was to many.

Eric spent nearly all of his entire adult life as an elementary school teacher in Pocatello. He bounced between Wilcox Elementary, Jefferson Elementary and Indian Hills Elementary, primarily teaching the fourth and sixth grades.

One of the students he impacted sent Rhonda a message after learning of his passing.

In the letter, the former student told Rhonda about a conversation they had with Eric — who went by Mr. Davis when he taught. That former student was struggling as the victim of ongoing bullying.

But guidance Eric offered led the student down a life path that now finds them serving as an art therapist helping kids who are the victims of bullying. The principles the student now teaches were taught to them by Mr. Davis.

“I firmly believe if it hadn’t been for Mr. Davis, I might have been one of these children who takes their own life from the pain,” the letter reads. “I thought about it.”

Rhonda would like stories like that to serve as her late husband’s legacy.

“I desperately want my husband to be remembered for the teacher he was, for the difference he made in hundreds of people’s lives, for the father he was,” she said. “His story isn’t a Downard story. His story is so much bigger than what happened to his body.”

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With that in mind, Rhonda has asked EastIdahoNews.com to provide her email to readers. She asks anyone associated with the incidents at Downard who needs to talk with someone to email her at Rhondasvoice2@gmail.com.

It is also recommended in an obituary that those struggling with the ongoing effects of the missing remains of loved ones go to the Scout Mountain Nature Trail, where Eric spent much of his free time. There, they will find a bench dedicated to his memory.

Sit on the bench and feel the love Eric had for so many. Then take a photo, the obituary says, and email it to Rhonda.

Finally, her goal as it pertains to the investigation is that it not be forgotten.

“I don’t want this to go away. I want Lance held accountable,” Rhonda said.

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This is not a “victimless crime,” she said. It is not a breach of contract that affects only the deceased. As she believes, any investigation into Downard and Peck should be handled with victims, both living and dead, in mind.

EastIdahoNews.com has made numerous attempts to speak with Peck about the investigation and missing bodies, but he has not responded to our requests.

“This is still happening to me,” Rhonda said speaking of the events surrounding the disappearance of Eric’s remains. “What Lance did to me, he didn’t do back in August-September of 2021. Lance Peck was a friend of mine. He knew Eric, and he knows where Eric’s body is right now. He is in a position, today, to tell me what happened to my husband’s body, and he chooses not to.”