Mourners find stranger in casket at grandmother’s funeral

Two grieving North Carolina families demand answers after laying to rest the wrong person in funeral home mix-up.

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sign at the Alexander Funeral Home in Charlotte, North Carolina
Sign at the funeral home in Charlotte, North Carolina, where two families laid to rest the wrong person after an apparent mix-up
(Fox 46)

Two bereaved families in North Carolina are insisting on an explanation after an apparent mistake at a Charlotte funeral home led to each laying to rest the wrong person.

75-year-old Catherine White passed away at her son’s home in the early hours of June 26.

The doting son, Dr Jerry Bowman, had spent the last four months caring for his mother as she was dying from terminal cancer.

However, when he arrived at his mother’s funeral service, Bowman told Fox 46 that he realised straightaway that the woman laying in the casket and even wearing his mother’s white suit was not in fact his mother.

“I knew what she looked like the minute she left my home at 1.11am on June the 26th this year,” the grieving son, who works as an emergency room doctor, said.   

But if the woman in the casket wasn’t his mother who was she?

What Bowman and his family would only discover later was that Elease McInnis had passed away a day earlier in Charlotte aged 91. 

Both deceased women ended up being sent to Alexander Funeral Home on Statesville Avenue to be prepared for burial.  

Yet, inexplicably, McInnis was dressed in clothing and jewelry belonging to White, and also laid out in her casket.

“She doesn’t deserve this. Nobody deserves anything like this,” Bowman told the station. 

Meanwhile, McInnis’s unsuspecting relatives mistakenly laid White to rest in a burial service held on July 2. 

A relative of McInnis’s told Fox 46 that the family are embarrassed and heartbroken after discovering what happened. 

According to the relative, some loved ones had pointed out at the time of her funeral that McInnis looked different, but they assumed it was due to the embalming process.

Palmer Dupree Sr, who works with Long and Son Mortuary Services in Charlotte, told Fox 46 that thorough procedures should be followed, including tagging everything from the body to the clothes and casket.

“We properly tag the remains. We place an ID tag on their toe or either on their wrist. That’s before we even bring them back to the funeral home,” Dupree said. “And then you have a log sheet you should follow by and also you should inform your staff as well. Everyone should know exactly who the remains are.”

White’s body will now have to be exhumed from York Memorial Park with the permission of McInnis’s family, Bowman said. 

The owners of Alexander Funeral Home, which has been in business since 1914, are yet to comment publicly on the apparent error.

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