More than two months after the funeral and burial for Georgia resident Johnny Morgan Lowe III, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) is coming clean with the Lowe family about a mix-up of corpses.
According to People, 51-year-old Johnny Lowe III died on December 1 after a fall down a set of stairs. His remains were sent to the crime lab at the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to rule out any evidence of foul play. Lowe’s family buried their loved one on December 8.
It wasn’t until February 8 when a supervisor with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation who was rearranging tables in the cooler of the crime lab in Atlanta discovered one of the corpses had been improperly tagged.
Realizing the mistake, officials at the Georgia crime lab carefully sorted through all of the paperwork and remains that were still housed at the facility and, through autopsy photos and fingerprints, were positively able to identify Lowe’s body.
According to GBI documents, the bodies of both men had arrived at the lab on December 4. Georgia officials say there are two possible scenarios in which the confusion occurred — either Caldwell’s body was mislabeled or the body was correctly labeled by techs at the GBI and the funeral home failed to confirm the tags.
On February 10, the GBI notified the Lowe family that they hadn’t buried their beloved Johnny at all. Somehow, the body of Louie Caldwell had been delivered to the family at the Thomas L. King Funeral Home in Martinez, Georgia, instead.
It’s been a rough month for Georgia funeral homes, as Hills Watson Peoples Funeral Home in Columbus, Georgia, made headlines just last week when a homeless man was charged with robbery and acts of necrophilia in their establishment.
According to a GBI summary of the corpse mix-up events, they are stating that a Thomas L. King Funeral Home employee confirmed that one of Lowe’s family members identified his body. The funeral home denies this, stating the family opted for a closed casket funeral.
Regardless of how the mix-up occurred, it has left Lowe’s family devastated.
To add insult to injury, the Lowe family was notified of the mix up by Georgia’s chief medical examiner Dr. Kris Sperry via telephone. Johnny’s brother, Donald Lowe, talked about the phone call in a recent interview.
“This blew me off my feet. These people made me madder than hell. I didn’t even want to talk to him anymore. He insulted me to start with by not showing up at my home with a priest or pastor or someone stating how big a mistake it was. You don’t throw out that kind of mistake out over the phone.”
Originally, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation had asked the Lowes if Caldwell’s remains could be left in the burial plot meant for Lowe, and they would pick another plot for Johnny, picking up the tab for the burial. Caldwell’s family had failed to claim his body after telling the GBI they were trying to make arrangements for an indigent burial.
David Lowe stated that his family was insulted by the GBI’s response and called it a “penny-pinching move” by the state.
“They need to put this guy with his family and put my family here.”
He not only wants Georgia to cover the cost of the burial of his brother but another memorial service as well.
According to reports, the GBI has stated it will now disinter Caldwell’s body and he will be given a pauper’s burial in Clayton County, Georgia, where he was from. The date has not been determined.
[Image courtesy of Chris Hondros/Getty Images]