Funeral Home Fined After Disastrous Body Mix-Up

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KATUJerry Moon (left) and Robert Petitclerc.

A funeral home in Kelso, Wash. is being fined $12,500 and placed on probation for one year after a mix-up last October led to one man ending up in another's casket, and another man being cremated against his wishes.

The bodies of 72-year-old Jerry Moon and 97-year-old Robert Petitlerc were not immediately tagged with ID bracelets, leading to an error that caused one's remains to be mistaken for the other's. The result? Moon was cremated, and Petitclerc was sent on to another mortuary, where the mistake went undetected until the Moon's family opened the casket to discover the latter.

They said that Moon feared cremation, and had said he wanted to be buried alongside his parents. And while Petitcler was eventually cremated, in accordance with his wishes, his widow has expressed unease about whether the ashes she received are actually her husband's, KATU-TV reported.

A state Department of Licensing report determined that Norm Burns, an employee of Kelso's Dahl McVicker Funeral Home, placed the wrong ID bracelets on the two bodies after transporting the two bodies from Community Home Health and Hospice back to his workplace. There, another employee brought Moon's remains, labeled "Robert Petitclerc," to Longview Memorial Park Crematory for cremation. Petitclerc's body, labeled "Jerry Moon," was brought to Brown Mortuary and embalmed.

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

Anthony said that funeral homes are required by state law to attach ID bracelets to bodies at the removal site, and the tags must remain on the body until burial or cremation.

During its probationary period, Dahl McVicker cannot commit any violations of the law and must pass all Department of Licensing audits and inspections.

"The probationary period means we will be monitoring Dahl McVicker very closely," Anthony told KATU. "They may be inspected and audited more often, and if we find any violations, they may face further sanctions."

The funeral home has 20 days to appeal the ruling. Anthony said the Department of Licensing cannot order a business to pay restitution to the families.

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