Wash. family finds wrong man in casket at funeral

Wash. family finds wrong man in casket at funeral
CASTLE ROCK, Wash. – A man's family says his final wish was denied because of a mix-up, and they only realized it when they opened his casket at the funeral and saw the wrong man.

"I pray to God they didn't cremate him, and turns out that's exactly what happened," said the man's stepson.

No one is sure how it happened. Even the funeral home admits things aren't clear right now.

According to the family, Jerry Moon died at a Longview hospice care center and was taken to a funeral home in Chehalis. At some point his body was mixed up with another man who died at the same hospice center the same night.

After a beautiful memorial service Moon’s stepson, Jerry Johnson, opened the casket and saw the wrong face.

"My sister came right up to me and said, 'Jerry, that's not him.' And I said, 'Tami, it's him you know.' And so I went over and looked. And I said, 'That's not even close! This is some 90-year-old man in here," Johnson said.

Moon was 72 years old.

Eventually, the funeral director called. Moon had been cremated by mistake.

"He stressed to all of his kids, to everybody: he wanted to be – he did not want his body burned," said Johnson.

He also didn't want his family burdened. It's why Moon paid for much of his own funeral a decade ago.

A representative for Brown Mortuary in Chehalis called the mix-up extremely rare and sent the following statement:

"We believe we have the very best training in the industry and that our policies and procedures are outstanding. However, from time to time we do make a mistake. When that happens, our policy is one of full disclosure to the family and we work with them to come to an accord."

But family said they haven't talked much with the funeral home. They'll leave that up to state investigators and their lawyer, for now.

"Even if we sued, I'd give every bit of it back if we could magically change this," Johnson said. "Our whole family will never stop thinking about it – ever."

The family hopes investigators will help them verify the ashes they have now actually belong to Jerry Moon. Then they hope to bury those ashes where he wanted to be buried.

The hospice center CEO told KATU News they looked over their procedures and found everything was followed appropriately.

KATU is waiting to hear more from the funeral home and will be following up with Washington Department of Licensing.