A California man buried a body he believed was his son’s in a $20,000 funeral family members described as “a beautiful send off.”
Less than two weeks later, on May 23 Frank J. Kerrigan, 82, got a phone call from a friend who told him, “Your son is alive.”
The family is filing a lawsuit against the Orange County Coroner’s Office, whose mistakes caused the misidentification — and ensuing grief.
The mix-up began on May 6, when the Orange County Coroner told the elder Kerrigan that his son, Frank M.Kerrigan, 57, had been found dead behind a Verizon store in Fountain Valley, The Orange County Register reported.
The younger Kerrigan is mentally ill and homeless.
Kerrigan told the news outlet that when he offered to identify the body, the coroner’s office assured him that the man had already been identified as his son, through fingerprints.
But Kerrigan later learned that when coroner officials ran the dead man’s fingerprints through a database, zero matches were returned.
When Frank was found to be alive, the man’s fingerprints were re-entered into the database and matched someone else.
An attorney for Kerrigan, Doug Easton, contends that the Coroner’s Office violated Frank’s civil rights when it did not make adequate efforts to identify his body. Easton said it’s because Frank is homeless, The Register reported.
Signs along the way pointed to a mix-up.
Kerrigan said that he didn’t think belongings, given to him by the Coroner’s Office, were his son’s. He received a blue bag, instead of a black brief case his son was known to carry.
Kerrigan is filing suit against the Orange County Coroner’s office whose mistakes he believes led to the body’s misidentification.
Two of Frank’s favorite possessions, a watch, and a pen, were both missing.
Frank said he could barely look at the body in the open casket at the funeral, he was so distraught, The Register reported,
It’s not exactly clear how Frank became linked to the death behind the Verizon store.
The Register reports that someone told authorities the dead man resembled Frank, who had grown up just two blocks away from the scene.
Easton said the coroner officials told Kerrigan they used an old photo from Frank’s driver’s license to visually identify the body.
But instead of Frank, a stranger was interred 150 feet away from where Kerrigan’s late wife, Catherine Kerrigan, is buried.
Frank’s family is outraged.
“We thought we were burying our brother,” his sister, Carole Meikle told The Register.
“We lived through or worst fear,” she said. “He was dead on the sidewalk. We buried him. Those feelings don’t go away.”