Funeral home error caused body mixup

KELSO — A funeral home worker’s failure to immediately attach ID bracelets to the bodies of two men who died at the same hospice caused the mix-up that led to one man’s body ending up in a casket at the other man’s funeral, a Washington state agency said Monday.

The state Department of Licensing plans to fine Dahl McVicker Funeral Home of Kelso $12,500 and place it on probation for a year for the mix-up last October, The Chronicle of Centralia reported.

Dahl McVicker was served with the findings last week and has 20 days to appeal, Licensing spokeswoman Christine Anthony said. The state Funeral and Cemetery Board released the findings Monday.

Ken Dahl, president of Dahl McVicker, was not immediately reachable by phone Monday night for comment.

The bodies of 72-year-old Jerry Moon of Castle Rock and 97-year-old Robert Petitclerc of Kelso were misidentified. As a result Moon was cremated, while Petitclerc’s body was found inside the casket at Moon’s funeral in Chehalis.

Moon’s family said he feared cremation and wanted to be buried next to his father and mother.

Petitclerc eventually was cremated, as he had wished, and his ashes returned to his family. His widow was concerned about whether the ashes she received were indeed her husband’s, KATU-TV reported.

Lawyer Shawn Briggs, who is representing both families, was in court Monday and unavailable to comment, his secretary said.

Brian Moon, the son of Jerry Moon, told The Chronicle he had not yet seen the findings and would have to confer with his lawyer before making any decision about what to do next.

The mix-up wasn’t discovered until more than a week after the men died, when funeral staff members opened the casket at Moon’s funeral and his family saw a stranger’s body.

Moon and Petitclerc both died Oct. 13 within an hour of each other at Community Home Health and Hospice in Longview. The Licensing report says a Dahl McVicker employee picked up both men’s bodies to take them to the funeral home but did not place an ID bracelet on the remains of either man.

When the bodies arrived at Dahl McVicker, the employee “removed both remains from the vehicle, brought them into the funeral home and at that point attached identification bracelets identifying Mr. Moon’s body as Mr. Petitclerc’s and a bracelet identifying Mr. Petitclerc’s body as Mr. Moon’s,” the DOL report said.

Funeral homes are required to attach a bracelet or tag to the wrist or ankle of the body at the removal site, and that tag is supposed to remain on the body at all times until burial or cremation, Anthony said.

Another employee transported the mislabeled remains of Moon to another site for cremation.

The mislabeled remains of Petitclerc were transported to Brown Mortuary in Chehalis for funeral preparations, the report said.

Anthony said Brown Mortuary was not found to be at fault.

“In our investigation we found they were unaware of the misidentification of the remains and we felt they were not in any violation,” Anthony told The Chronicle. “It would be a violation if they had known. Everything pointed back to Dahl McVicker.”

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