California father buries wrong man after coroner's mistake - Palm Springs News, Weather, Traffic, Breaking News

California father buries wrong man after coroner's mistake

Posted: Updated:

SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) - Eleven days after laying his son to rest, Frank J. Kerrigan got a call from a friend.

"Your son is alive," he said.

"Bill (Shinker) put my son on the phone," Kerrigan said. "He said 'Hi Dad.' "

Orange County coroner's officials had misidentified the body, the Orange County Register reported Friday (http://bit.ly/2tZSyZj).

The mix-up began on May 6 when a man was found dead behind a Verizon store in Fountain Valley.

Kerrigan, 82, of Wildomar, said he called the coroner's office and was told the body was that of his son, Frank M. Kerrigan, 57, who is mentally ill and had been living on the street.

When he asked whether he should identify the body, a woman said - apparently incorrectly - that identification had been made through fingerprints.

"When somebody tells me my son is dead, when they have fingerprints, I believe them," Kerrigan said. "If he wasn't identified by fingerprints I would been there in heartbeat."

Frank's sister, 56-year-old Carole Meikle of Silverado, went to the spot where he died to leave a photo of him, a candle, flowers and rosary beads.

"It was a very difficult situation for me to stand at a pretty disturbing scene. There was blood and dirty blankets," she said.

On May 12, the family held a $20,000 funeral that drew about 50 people from as far away as Las Vegas and Washington state. Frank's brother, John Kerrigan, gave the eulogy.

"We thought we were burying our brother," Meikle said. "Someone else had a beautiful sendoff. It's horrific."

The body was interred at a cemetery in Orange about 150 feet from where Kerrigan's wife is buried.

Earlier, in the funeral home, the grieving Kerrigan had looked at the man in the casket and touched his hair, convinced he was looking at his son for the last time. "I didn't know what my dead son was going to look like," he said.

Then came the May 23 phone call from Shinker. Kerrigan's son was standing on the patio.

It was unclear how coroner's officials misidentified the body.

Doug Easton, an attorney hired by Kerrigan, said coroner's officials apparently weren't able to match the corpse's fingerprints through a law enforcement database and instead identified Kerrigan by using an old driver's license photo.

When the family told authorities he was alive, they tried the fingerprints again and on June 1 learned they matched someone else's, Meikle said.

Easton said the coroner's office provided the Kerrigan family with a name of that person, but the identification hasn't been independently confirmed. The attorney said the family plans to sue, alleging authorities didn't properly try to identify the body as Kerrigan's son because he is homeless.

Sheriff's Lt. Lane Lagaret, a spokesman for the coroner's office, said the department extends regrets to the Kerrigan family "for any emotional stress caused as a result of this unfortunate incident."

Lagaret said in a statement Saturday that the Orange County Sheriff's Department is conducting an internal investigation into the mix-up and that all identification policies and procedures will be reviewed to ensure no misidentifications occur in the future.

The mistaken death identification led the federal government to stop disability payments for her brother, Meikle said. The family is working to restore them.

Meikle said her brother chose to return to living on the street and doesn't understand how hard the mistake was on his family.

"We lived through our worst fear," she said. "He was dead on the sidewalk. We buried him. Those feelings don't go away."

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Most Popular StoriesMost Popular StoriesMore>>

  • Palm Springs

    Man Arrested for Fatally Shooting Mother in Palm Springs

    Man Arrested for Fatally Shooting Mother in Palm Springs

    Monday, November 20 2017 7:49 PM EST2017-11-21 00:49:37 GMT

    A woman shot at a Palm Springs home Monday was hospitalized in critical condition, and police were questioning several men. 

    A woman shot at a Palm Springs home Monday was hospitalized in critical condition, and police were questioning several men. 

  • Palm Springs

    Friends Remember Amber Lane, Woman Allegedly Killed by Son

    Tuesday, November 21 2017 8:57 PM EST2017-11-22 01:57:19 GMT

    The Palm Springs community is grieving the loss of 36-year-old Amber Lane. Police said Lane was shot early Monday morning by her son, 19-year-old Brian Conroy. Family and friends of Lane said they are living a nightmare. "You can't possibly imagine. They loved one another just immensely," Guy Garrett said. Garrett is a close friend of Lane's and co-worker at Wangs in the Desert. He said Conroy and his mother were extremely close.  Related: Man Arrested f...

    The Palm Springs community is grieving the loss of 36-year-old Amber Lane. Police said Lane was shot early Monday morning by her son, 19-year-old Brian Conroy. Family and friends of Lane said they are living a nightmare. "You can't possibly imagine. They loved one another just immensely," Guy Garrett said. Garrett is a close friend of Lane's and co-worker at Wangs in the Desert. He said Conroy and his mother were extremely close.  Related: Man Arrested f...

  • Judge permanently blocks Trump sanctuary cities order

    Judge permanently blocks Trump sanctuary cities order

    Tuesday, November 21 2017 12:08 PM EST2017-11-21 17:08:28 GMT

    A federal judge on Monday permanently blocked President Donald Trump's executive order to cut funding from cities that limit cooperation with U.S. immigration authorities. 

    A federal judge on Monday permanently blocked President Donald Trump's executive order to cut funding from cities that limit cooperation with U.S. immigration authorities. 

Powered by Frankly