Atlanta, GA (CBS46) Standing in the foyer of her attorney’s office, tears welling in her eyes, Regina Wynn says she is devastated by the events that led to her family being given someone else’s ashes for her mother’s memorial service.
Paulette Patricia Bradley died on September 26th from complications from Alzheimer’s. Her family tells CSB46 they sent her body to Southern Regional Medical Center and requested that her body be cremated by the Speer-Shelton Funeral Home in McDonough.
“These ashes were delivered by the funeral director and handed over to Ms. Wynn and they had a memorial service with these ashes,” the family's attorney C.K. Hoffler told reporters. “Two weeks letter, the hospital called and let them know that their mother’s body was still at the hospital. They wanted to know when the body was going to be picked up,” Hofflersaid.
Bradley’s family is threatening to sue the hospital and funeral home and anyone involved with the missing ashes.
“The hospital contacted me and if they hadn’t have contacted me, I would’ve still believed that that was my mom,” Wynn said on Monday.
CBS46’s Hayley Mason reached out to the Speer-Shelton Funeral Directors and spoke with funeral director, Edwin Shelton about the missing ashes.
“It wasn’t us,” Shelton said on the phone. “It was them. We didn’t do anything wrong,” Shelton exclaimed.
He initially said the crematory, Cremation Services of Atlanta, which is located in Conyers, did not pick up the body and was responsible for the mix up.
The family of the deceased did not learn that their mother’s body had not been cremated yet until two weeks after the memorial service they held with mystery ashes.
“The funeral director committed to the family that he would be able to have the body cremated and ready for the service that was going to be roughly at 3 o’clock in the afternoon,” Hoffler told reporters in a press conference about the case. “The service did take place on the 29th of September.” Hoffler said service included ashes in an unmarked temporary urn, with tape residue present but no labels to identify the deceased.
After blaming the crematory, Shelton began to admit he was at least in part to blame, saying he “made an honest mistake.”
“When I walked into the funeral home, I saw some cremains on the desk,” Shelton said on the phone. “No name on it, but I am pretty sure this is it because I don’t keep cremains, and that’s what I carried to the family. That’s where I messed up at,” Shelton said. “The cremains that were there. I thought they were hers,” Shelton went on.
The crematory is blaming the issue on Shelton and his staff.
“The proper protocol was followed regarding Ms. Bradley, and there was no error on the part of the crematory,” said Cynthia Wilkins, the funeral director at Cremation Services of Atlanta, Inc. “I specifically signed the certificate of cremation, which means I verified everything before Ms. Bradley was returned to the funeral home,” Wilkins went on, explaining the four-step verification and tagging process involved in cremations.
Wilkins say it is Shelton’s responsibility by oath and law to verify the identity of the deceased. He tells CBS46 that he Bradley’s ashes were delivered by Cremation Services two weeks after the memorial. Wilkins and the crematory President Mike Boston say they do not know where the remains used in the memorial originated.
“Cremation Services of Atlanta did not deliver any cremated remains to Speer Shelton Funeral Directors on 9/28/18 or 9/29/18 or the week of,” Boston said. “Further any cremated remains that are delivered are required to be verified and signed for by the Funeral Home representative which we keep a record of,” Boston said.
The mystery remains are being held by attorney Hoffler who is building evidence for a case.
The spokesperson for the hospital denies any wrongdoing. “Official records and documentation reveal that Southern Regional Medical Center released the proper remains to the funeral home. Furthermore, Speer-Shelton Funeral Home has verified receipt of the correct remains from Southern Regional,” said Kim Golden-Benner, the hospital spokesperson.
“Above and beyond any litigation this family deserves answers,” Hoffler said. The legal team has asked for anyone who requested a cremation in the late September to contact them in hopes of identifying the owners of the missing ashes.
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