Funeral Called Off After Body Mix-Up

Chicago family horrified to discover matriarch had already been buried
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 9, 2015 12:00 PM CST
Funeral Called Off After Body Mix-Up
Yikes.   (Shutterstock)

When Monique Williams and her brother went to a Chicago funeral home Friday to ID her mom's body before her funeral the next day, they thought something was amiss. "[We said], 'That don't look nothing like Mom,'" Williams tells CBS Chicago. For one, the dead woman's fingernails were long; Williams' mom, Ella Mae Rutledge, always had short nails. But when Williams pulled back the woman's wig to reveal dark hair (her mom had white hair), she knew a terrible mistake had been made: Rutledge's body had been mixed up with another, the Chicago Tribune reports. Staff at Leak & Sons Funeral Home quickly shuffled Williams into the body-prep room and showed her three other deceased women, per CBS—Williams tells the Chicago Sun-Times they put her mom's dress on at least one of the bodies—but none of them was Rutledge. Then the worst possible news: Due to an employee mistake in tagging the bodies, her mother had apparently been buried that day by another family.

"Eighty-three years in business, and this is the first time dealing with someone erroneously interred," Spencer Leak Sr., the owner of the funeral home, tells the Tribune. What had helped the mistake stand was that the other deceased woman's daughter had mistakenly said the body of 74-year-old Rutledge was her own mom. Instead of a funeral, Rutledge's family held a casket-less memorial service Saturday. "It was absolutely devastating," an attendee tells the Tribune. "She's originally from Alabama, so there were a lot of people who came from there to pay their last respects." But despite Rutledge's body being exhumed (her remains are now back at Leak & Sons), Williams says she has no plans for a new funeral. "My father is totally distraught," she tells the Tribune. "He and my mother bought a prepaid policy a long time ago, but ... he told me, 'No way in hell let my body go there when I die.'" She tells CBS she's planning legal action. (A Rhode Island woman had a similar experience with her mother.)

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