Funeral Fiasco: Wrong body sent to family

SOUTH PHILADELPHIA - August 18, 2009 As if funerals aren't sad and emotional enough, what happened in South Philadelphia was a nightmare for the family and friends of Mr. Roberts.

The funeral was to be held at Tindley Temple United Methodist Church on South Broad Street Tuesday morning, but the body that was brought there was not that of Kenneth Monroe Roberts, a South Philadelphia resident and army veteran.

"They kept trying to tell us that it was him and I knew it wasn't him," the wife of Kenneth Roberts, Janin Holsey, said.

The body of Kenneth Roberts and that of another man were mistakenly switched.

Family members who viewed the body on Monday say they knew something was wrong and told the funeral director.

"I told them it wasn't my grandpop; all his grandkids came in here and said that's not their grandpop. We know what my grandpop looked like, that wasn't him," granddaughter Kenayah Cerban said.

The funeral home of James Hawkins at 17th and Federal Streets handled the arrangements. Tuesday morning, during the viewing and just before the funeral service began, the error was acknowledged.

"She came in the service and said, 'we made a mistake, that's not your husband.' Everyone went into a rampage," sister-in-law Lois Bundy said.

The family waited an hour and a half and then Roberts' body finally arrived.

However, mourners were still horrified as the body was face down and partially hanging out of the ajar casket.

"This is not right. I never in my life... and that's my dad and I just want it fixed," daughter Rhonda Warring said.

One man suffered a seizure and was taken to the hospital along with a woman suffering an asthma attack. The funeral was cancelled.

A similar scene played out across town at the Francis Funeral Home in Southwest Philadelphia.

Claire Beverly and her sister were laying to rest their father, Charles, when they too realized their father was not in the casket, but rather the body of Kenneth Roberts.

"Id like an apology and make sure this doesn't happen to another person because this is ridiculous," Claire said.

Family members tell Action News both funeral homes are owned by Frankie Francis. Embalming is performed at the Francis Funeral home and the bodies are then transported to the services.

After repeated calls were not returned Action News went looking for answers, but found none as no one would explain what happened.

Family members say they've received the same response.

"I'm lost for words. The words out of my mouth I don't think he wants to hear because this doesn't make sense," relative Melanie Oliver said.

The family of Kenneth Roberts is planning a small private funeral.

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