Sheriff's Department Admits It Wrongly Identified Dead Man Weeks After His Funeral

A family friend, Bill Shinker, who had served as a pallbearer at the funeral, was the one who called Kerrigan's dad to let him know his son was not dead, but rather was very much alive and standing on his patio, the Orange County Register reported.

Mr Kerrigan, 82, of Wildomar, said he called the coroner's office and was told the body was that of his son, Frank M. Kerrigan, 57, who is mentally ill and had been living on the street. According to the Orange County Register, Orange County coroner's officials in California had misidentified the body.

Frank J. Kerrigan's daughter went to the spot behind the Verizon store and found a disturbing scene that included blood and dirty blankets.

Kerrigan said that he asked if he had to go down to the coroner's office to identify his son, but was told that fingerprints had already confirmed who he was.

The family will reportedly file a claim against Orange County next week as a precursor to a lawsuit alleging Frank M. Kerrigan's civil rights were violated because the coroner's office did not make adequate efforts to correctly identify the body.

Frank's brother, John Kerrigan, gave the eulogy.

Kerrigan said that he didn't think belongings, given to him by the Coroner's Office, were his son's.

It all began on May 6, when Kerrigan was notified by the Riverside County Sheriff's Department that he needed to get in touch with the Orange County Coroner. "Someone else had a handsome sendoff".

Before the funeral, the grieving father had even looked at the man lying in the casket to say goodbye, but didn't realize it wasn't his son.

When he contacted the coroner's office, he was told the Frank's fingerprints were not a match to the deceased body. He said officials didn't really try to identify him properly as he was homeless.

Due to the incorrect death #identification, the federal government stopped disability payments for Frank, but Meikle says they are working to restore those payments.

However, through their grief, the family believed it was Frank because they had been told his body was positively identified using fingerprints. "I didn't know what my dead son was going to look like", he told the paper.

She said his funeral cost the family around $26,000 and was attended by 50 people. 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.

Coroner spokesman Lane Lagaret said the department extends its regrets to the Kerrigan family "for any emotional stress caused as a result of this unfortunate incident".

They held a $20,000 funeral May 12, at Holy Family Catholic Cathedral in Orange.

When the family told authorities he was alive, they tried the fingerprints again and learned they matched someone else's.

The body was interred at a cemetery in Orange about 150 feet from where Kerrigan's wife is buried. Her brother has returned to living on the streets and doesn't realise how hard the incident was on the family.

"We lived through our worst fear", said Ms Meikle.

"He was dead on the sidewalk".

  • Larry Hoffman