10/30/2014

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KATU Investigators

State launches investigation; family wants answers into body mix-up

State launches investigation; family wants answers into body mix-up

PORTLAND, Ore. – Two funeral homes are under investigation by the state of Washington after an error led to the cremation of the wrong man's body.

According to the state, it is sending investigators to both funeral homes involved to interview and gather evidence.

KATU also called the funeral homes but they didn't say much.

Jerry Moon died at a hospice center in Longview, Wash. Dahl McVicker Funeral Home then picked up his body and was supposed to be taken to Brown Mortuary in Chehalis.

But somehow Moon got mixed up with another man, and the worst part of it: Moon was accidentally cremated.

It was something his family stressed that he didn't want.

Moon's family was devastated when they saw the wrong man in their loved one's casket during the memorial service.

When pressed by a KATU reporter for answers, the manager at Dahl McVicker hung up on her.

At Brown Mortuary, a national spokesperson said they followed all state procedures. She wouldn't provide any more details than that, citing privacy issues.

But the mortuary said it welcomed the investigation to ensure it is following all the rules.

"We believe that we have the very best training in the industry and that our policies and procedures are outstanding. However, from time to time, mistakes happen," said Brown Mortuary spokeswoman, Jessica McDunn.

She said when those mistakes do happen they work closely with the families to resolve the situation.

The man who was supposed to be cremated, 97-year-old Robert Petitclerc of Kelso, ended up in the casket at the Moon families' funeral service.

He died within 50 minutes of Moon at the same hospice center.

Petitclerc's son, Ron Dodson, said he first found out about his father being inside the casket when a member of the Moon family reached out to his family. He said the Dahl McVicker funeral home told him it was a paperwork mix-up.

"The paperwork that was supposed to go with Jerry Moon was with my dad, and my dad's paperwork was with Jerry Moon," Dodson said by phone.

Dodson also said that the Dahl McVicker funeral home told him that an employee of that funeral home was let go because of this mistake. KATU is still working to confirm that.

As for the state, "state regulation requires funeral homes to attach a bracelet or a tag to the ankle or wrist of a body when they are removing it from a site, and that identification bracelet or tag is supposed to remain on the body throughout the process until they are buried or cremated," said Christine Anthony of the communications and education office for the Washington State Department of Licensing.

According to the state, it's up to the funeral homes to use the bracelets.

Neither funeral home would give KATU any specifics.

KATU confirmed with the state that Brown Mortuary doesn't have any complaints or disciplinary actions on its record.

KATU also confirmed that Dahl McVicker is being investigated by the Washington State Department of Licensing for another case related to financial issues.

Situations like this can result in disciplinary action against the funeral home or funeral home employees that include fines, suspensions or revoking licenses.

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