A series of unfortunate events in California leaves family members in Parsons waiting for their love one's body to be taken out of the wrong grave. It began in May, when the Orange County, California Coroner's Office misidentified the body of a homeless man. That mistake wasn't realized until the homeless man phoned his dad after the funeral to say he was alive, as a local newspaper reports.
The body is actually that of a man who was born in Southeast Kansas.
Diane Keaton says the story you're about to read is unbelievable. She says what her family has been through is inexcusable.
"It's a horror," says Keaton.
A media release from the Orange County Sheriff's Office on June 26th said a man's body had been misidentified. Keaton says three days later, her mom got a call from the Orange County Coroner's Office letting her know her homeless son, 54-year-old John Dickens, was found dead.
"She also said to my mother, 'We can have his body exhumed and sent to you at your expense, or we can have him cremated and sent to you free of charge'," says Keaton.
But Keaton says the coroner's office made no mention of her brother being misidentified.
"The woman said, 'He's buried. They buried him.' But at that time, we didn't know who 'they' were. Mom said, 'Well, maybe we ought to just leave him there. We don't want to disturb his final resting place.' She said, 'No. We can't leave him there. That's a temporary spot. You'll have to remove him'."
Keaton says shortly after this phone call with the coroner's office, she began reading articles about Frank Kerrigan, Jr., a homeless man the Orange County Coroner's Office misidentified. Kerrigan, Jr. is still alive. But the coroner's office originally said Kerrigan, Jr. was found dead in Fountain Valley, California, the same city where Dickens' body was found.
Meanwhile, another media release from the Orange County Sheriff's Office confirmed that the deceased person previously misidentified as Kerrigan, Jr. was really Dickens.
Keaton says the coroner's office still hasn't contacted her family and admitted the mistake.
Keaton and her relatives are still waiting for Dickens' body to be exhumed.
"The man in the coroner's office said it could take all this next week, up to Friday. We don't see where it's supposed to take that long," says Keaton.
Keaton says her family gave written permission more than a week ago to have Dickens' body exhumed. In the meantime, Keaton, along with Frank Kerrigan's family, is suing the Orange County Coroner's Office.
The Orange County Coroner's Office says an internal investigation has been opened to determine if policy changes need to be made. Details of the incident are not being discussed due to an ongoing investigation and pending litigation.
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