After Sheila Sterling died of cancer last September, her family hoped for one last peaceful farewell. What they got instead was a tragic and painful ordeal.
The family had planned for an open casket viewing before the funeral service. However, just before the viewing was to take place, Kimberly Byers, the sister of the deceased, says the Gonzalez Funeral Home and Crematory informed them that there would be no viewing.
Why? Because they had the wrong body.
“I don’t think we could truly express how we feel,” said Kimberly Byers.
“The remains they had were not of our sister. They were of a white male, and they weren’t sure how that occurred,” Byers says. “Everyone was shocked. We actually had a family member who exited the room because they were so upset.”
The only thing that could make this worse is if the funeral home went ahead and cremated -- oh, they did.
Sheila Sterling was cremated and her ashes presented to the family (although they have no way to prove whether or not it's really Sterling).
Understandably, Byers and her family feel as if they didn’t get a chance to say their goodbyes.
“And that’s something we will never have,” Byers said.
So where does it go from here?
“Last September, the family filed a complaint with the Texas Funeral Service Commission, which has been investigating. And now the family has filed this lawsuit against the funeral home and two mortuaries,” CBS DFW reports.
“In the lawsuit, Byers and her family claim the transportation company, Global Mortuary Affairs of Mesquite delivered Sterling’s body to the wrong place, the J.E. Keever Mortuary in Ennis, instead of the Gonzalez Funeral Home,” the report adds.
The problem, according to the lawsuit, is that by the time the mistake was discovered, Sterling’s body had already been cremated. The lawsuit also accuses Keever Mortuary and Gonzalez Funeral Home of breaking state rules on proper body identification.
“Yes, we’re angry, we’re very angry,” Byers said.
The Texas Funeral Service Commission sent the Byers family a letter stating that “a violation of statute and/or rule has been committed and assessed an administrative action and/or penalty against the licensee…”
However, the letter doesn’t say which firm was guilty of the violation.
“The state says the business that is cited will have 30 days to decide whether to accept the penalty or request a hearing or mediation in the case. Keever Mortuary and Global Mortuary didn’t return our calls,” CBS DFW reports.
“You just will never know, how do you put closure on that? You never can, you never can,” Byers said.