Family Finds Stranger In Mother’s Casket After Funeral Home Mistake, Learn She Was Buried By Another Family

November 9, 2015  |  

CBS

It’s something straight out of a movie, but unfortunately, it was one Chicago family’s reality–and nightmare–last week.

According to the Chicago Tribune, as the children and family of 74-year-old Ella Mae Rutledge prepared for the viewing of their mother, who had succumbed to Alzheimer’s, they looked in her casket and realized that something was wrong. Really wrong. The woman in the coffin looked nothing like their beloved Ella, and Rutledge’s daughter, Monique Williams, couldn’t believe what–or who–she was seeing.

“We said, ‘This doesn’t look nothing like mama,'” said Williams. “We knew she would look different but we said, ‘Man, she can’t look that different.’ She had none of my mother’s characteristics.”

None. Aside from being Black, the woman’s complexion, nails, and hair were all different.

Williams came to the unsettling conclusion that the woman she was looking at was not her mother. So where was Ella Mae Rutledge?

Already buried and in the ground a day earlier.

According to CBS, Rutledge’s body was misidentified with another woman’s. An employee put the wrong tag on Rutledge’s body. The owner of the funeral home, Spencer Leak Sr. of Leaks and Sons in the Chatham neighborhood, said this is the first time something like this has happened in the company’s 83 years. Leak said, “this is the first time dealing with someone erroneously interred.” And if you’re wondering how the family of the other deceased woman didn’t realize they were burying the wrong woman, Leak said he isn’t too sure either.

“Once we found out and we asked her if she was sure that it was her mom, she said she was having second thoughts about it,” Leak said. “She was very distraught and wanted to let the other family know she was very sorry.”

Knowing that Rutledge had already been buried, Williams and her family couldn’t go through with the viewing or the funeral planned for Saturday. But because family members were already in town, some coming from Rutledge’s home state of Alabama, they had to do something. So Williams and her family put on a memorial service with no body for the 300 attendees, and it made a devastating experience that much harder. And despite the funeral home exhuming Rutledge, the family doesn’t plan to do another service. And Williams said they don’t want any more of the funeral home’s help.

“We’re not having another funeral or homecoming ceremony. This was too much. My father is totally distraught. He and my mother bought a prepaid policy a long time ago, but after this, he told me, ‘No way in hell let my body go there when I die.'”

Can you blame him?

That family plan to file a lawsuit.

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