Bodies Switched at NYC Funeral Home

ByABC News
June 12, 2001, 1:50 PM

N E W  Y O R K, June 12 -- Body ID tags were accidentally switched at a funeral home, and one woman wound up being buried in the other woman's grave even though at least one relative noticed something was amiss.

"This is a terrible mistake," Unity Funeral Chapels' CliffordJames said today.

He said one of his employees mistakenly switched body tags lastweek, misidentifying 70-year-old Elizabeth Woods and 76-year-oldRuth Ross.

Woods was buried in Ross' grave at the Rose Hill cemetery inLinden, N.J., while Ross' body remained at the funeral home.

James, the funeral home's general manager, said that when theRoss family was called in to view the body before holding a wake,one of her children said "That's not Momma."

"But the oldest daughter stated, 'That is Momma,"' he said,and the family went ahead with the wake and funeral.

Bodies Appeared Very Different

Newsday reported that mourners initially accepted an assistantfuneral director's explanation that death and makeup sometimeschange a body's appearance.

"When you look at pictures of them, you say how could thispossibly be?" said Cheryl Woods, Elizabeth Woods' daughter-in-law. She said Woods had withered to perhaps 130 pounds and had verylittle hair after chemotherapy. Ross, by contrast, weighed about200 pounds and was considerably taller than Woods.

Members of the Ross family could not be located Tuesday forcomment on why they did not realize they mourned over an opencasket containing the wrong body for two days.

James stood by the employee who switched the tags. "He's ayoung man that made a mistake," he said.