Imagine receiving the worst phone call of your life — a body has been found and has been positively identified as your son. Now imagine pulling your resources together in your time of grief, gathering friends and loved ones together, and burying your son in a well-attended funeral. Now, imagine the range of emotions you would have if only a few weeks later, you receive a phone call not only saying your son is alive, but that he’s there and you can speak to him on the phone. This is the experience a California family endured when on May 6, 2017, Orange County officials contacted 82-year-old Frank J. Kerrigan to tell them his son was dead and that identification had already been made. Kerrigan did what any father would do, he buried his son, according to reports by the Orange County Register.
Frank M. Kerrigan, 57, battles mental illness and was homeless. His family was unsure of his location, so when they received the harrowing phone call their loved one’s body was found behind a Verizon store, they naturally believed it. Frank’s younger sister Carole Meikle, 56, went to the spot where she was told her brother had died. She saw blood and dirty blankets, grief-stricken, she set up a memorial at the site, according to ABC News. Though the family was ecstatic to hear the younger Frank was alive, nothing could compare with the grief they experienced believing he was dead. More than 50 people came to the funeral that cost $20,000 and Frank’s brother John Kerrigan delivered the eulogy.
The California Coroner’s office explained their mistake by saying when they retrieved the body, they did a fingerprint identification through their systems, but didn’t receive a match. They made the identification based on an old drivers’ license photo. Because the Orange County Coroner’s office believed they had a positive identification, they turned down the older Frank’s request to identify his son. According to the report, when Frank asked if he should identify the body, they said there was no need for him to come down, as a positive identification had been made.
Frank’s sister, Carole Meikle states that authorities told her Frank died peacefully, but that wasn’t what she saw when she visited the site and left a candle, his photo, rosary beads and flowers in his honor. She saw blood and dirty blankets — a scene that doesn’t imply a peaceful death had occurred.
When they attended the funeral, the older Frank was in such despair, he didn’t know what to expect when seeing his son in an open casket. He told authorities he didn’t know how his son would look so accepted that it was, in fact, his son in the casket. When family friend Bill Shinker notified Frank on May 23, 2017, to say that not only was the younger Frank alive, but he was standing on his porch, no one knew what to think. They also didn’t know who’s body had been buried in their family plot. A stranger was now resting approximately 150 feet from the older Frank’s buried wife.
At this point in the investigation, it remains unclear who the man who died behind Verizon store actually is. Unfortunately, the younger Frank is still battling mental illness and has returned to living on the streets, according to the report. The Kerrigan family has hired an attorney as they believe the case wasn’t properly vetted due to Frank M. Kerrigan being homeless and dealing with mental health issues. They say his civil rights were violated in the process.
What do you think about this case? Do you think they have grounds for a lawsuit? Please leave your comments and opinions below.
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