Funeral Home Fined After Disastrous Body Mix-Up

Man cremated against wishes after remains mislabeled

KATUJerry Moon (left) and Robert Petitclerc.

A funeral home in Kelso, Wash. is being fined $12,500 and placed on probation for one year after a mix-up last October led to one man ending up in another's casket, and another man being cremated against his wishes.

The bodies of 72-year-old Jerry Moon and 97-year-old Robert Petitlerc were not immediately tagged with ID bracelets, leading to an error that caused one's remains to be mistaken for the other's. The result? Moon was cremated, and Petitclerc was sent on to another mortuary, where the mistake went undetected until the Moon's family opened the casket to discover the latter.

They said that Moon feared cremation, and had said he wanted to be buried alongside his parents. And while Petitcler was eventually cremated, in accordance with his wishes, his widow has expressed unease about whether the ashes she received are actually her husband's, KATU-TV reported.

A state Department of Licensing report determined that Norm Burns, an employee of Kelso's Dahl McVicker Funeral Home, placed the wrong ID bracelets on the two bodies after transporting the two bodies from Community Home Health and Hospice back to his workplace. There, another employee brought Moon's remains, labeled "Robert Petitclerc," to Longview Memorial Park Crematory for cremation. Petitclerc's body, labeled "Jerry Moon," was brought to Brown Mortuary and embalmed.

"In our investigation we found they were unaware of the misidentification of the remains and we felt they were not in any violation," Department of Licensing Christine Anthony told The Chronicle. "It would be a violation if they had known. Everything pointed back to Dahl McVicker."

Anthony said that funeral homes are required by state law to attach ID bracelets to bodies at the removal site, and the tags must remain on the body until burial or cremation.

During its probationary period, Dahl McVicker cannot commit any violations of the law and must pass all Department of Licensing audits and inspections.

"The probationary period means we will be monitoring Dahl McVicker very closely," Anthony told KATU. "They may be inspected and audited more often, and if we find any violations, they may face further sanctions."

The funeral home has 20 days to appeal the ruling. Anthony said the Department of Licensing cannot order a business to pay restitution to the families.

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"The bodies of 72-year-old Jerry Moon and 97-year-old Robert Petitlerc were not immediately tagged with ID bracelets"

I'd have thought SOMEONE would have noticed the TWENTY-FIVE YEAR age difference in the two corpses.

September 10 2014 at 5:12 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

It's not comical, and it shouldn't be mitigated by "They're dead and aren't aware". Funerals and the final dealing with a loved one is the family trying to grieve in a respectful way and part of that is carrying out the deceased's wishes. They mention the horror of being cremated when they feared the fire but they don't mention the deceased who wished to avoid the mechanizations of embalming when they wanted the clean finality of cremation. The responsibility of trying to find the right balance for saying good by is so difficult. Forgivable? Yeah, it has to be. Mistakes happen. The director should be fined and put on notice of more scrutiny. Understandable? If it's your livelihood you have to make yourself calloused to the realities of death but your client is not calloused. Even when death is expected, the family is emersed in an uncomfortable world of euphemisms. You don't get used to it.

September 10 2014 at 12:22 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

That really takes the cake when the funeral home can't get the details correct. It's total Disrespect. Their license should be revoked for good. I can't imagine the grieving family stunned to find that their loved one had been cremated.
when his last request to be buried along side of family. This can't be fixed. Huge mistake!

September 10 2014 at 9:29 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Mistakes are made with the living as well. Wrong diagnosis,wrong operative procedures. I have seen it all.

April 25 2014 at 4:25 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

A very unfortunate story.

April 25 2014 at 4:14 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

But, don't the family of the body ( prepared to be cremeted) want to have a last look at the deceased before starting the cremetion process?

April 23 2014 at 2:49 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

My deepest sympathy to both families.

April 23 2014 at 2:03 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

this happened to my family too.... we went to view my dad at the mortuary and it was my dad's coffin and my dad's suit BUT it wasn't my dad. the people at the mortuary were beside themselves, most had worked there for25+ years and said this had never happened before. only my mom and I were going to view my dad, but after the mix up my whole family went to see him.

April 23 2014 at 2:00 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

well there you go... everyone eventually gets their 15 minutes of fame..

April 23 2014 at 1:59 AM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply

Many years ago I earned a living as an apprentice embalmer going to college. I also did 'first calls' the initial removal of the body from the place of death. Upon returning to the mortuary we would write the name on the upper thigh with a black marking pen. Toe tags could be a great opportunity for a malcontent to switch tags and that too has happened in the past. As for wrist bands, I never trusted them, the best was to immediately label the case upon arrival in the mortuary or prep room.
Even if the guy loved the idea of being cremated, no one at this point is going to miss this opportunity to grab a few extra bucks...... :)
John J. Nazarian, Private Investigator

April 23 2014 at 1:46 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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