Tenn. family finds wrong body in casket at visitation

CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) – A family wants answers after a mix-up at a Chattanooga funeral home.

Wednesday, the family gathered to say their final goodbyes to a loved one only to find another man in his place.

Benjamin Brown Jr. passed away last week from an illness. His nephews say that loss was difficult on its own, but a mistake by John P. Franklin Funeral Home made it harder on their family.

Willie Brown and his brother Dominique say they were first to notice something wasn’t right when friends and family gathered for visitation Wednesday afternoon.

“I said, ‘this ain’t my uncle,’” Willie says. “So, everybody around was like, ‘that’s your uncle, that’s your uncle, it’s just the makeup’ and I’m just saying I know my uncle and this is not my uncle.”

Willie says his uncle was a double-amputee. The man placed in his uncle’s casket was not.

A Chattanooga family says the John P. Franklin Funeral Home put the wrong man in their uncle’s casket.

“The man was like, ‘well let’s open the bottom of the casket,’” Willie recalls. “So, the funeral director opened the bottom of the casket and when he opened the bottom of the casket he was like (gasp) and he slammed the casket and said, ‘y’all get out.’”

Willie says his family was told to leave so the funeral home staff could look for his uncle’s body. He says the body was located at the morgue and brought to the funeral home 30 minutes later.

“The suit we bought my uncle to get buried in they had put it on the other guy,” Willie says. “So, we had to wait for them to take the clothes off this dead man and put it on my uncle so my uncle could get buried in his own clothes.”

“They’ve been saying it’s their mistake,” Dominique says. “They’re still apologizing. They don’t know what to do right now.”

The funeral home said in a statement they are looking into what happened.

"Certainly, we are sorry that this matter has been made public during this family’s time of grief. We have been in communication with the members of the family who are directly responsible for the arrangements, and we are committed to resolve any issues they may have," according to a statement from John P. Franklin Funeral Home.

As the family prepares to lay their loved one to rest, they say they want an explanation and assurance no other family has to go through this.

“What if we would have had a closed casket, we could have sent this man to the grave,” Willie says. “We could’ve buried someone else’s loved one and they wouldn’t have never known.”

The family tells Channel 3, the funeral service is still set for Thursday.

They plan to follow their uncle’s hearse to make sure their wishes are carried out.

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