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Bodies Switched at NYC Funeral Home

Bodies switched at NYCN E W  Y O R K, June 12

By Karen Matthews

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’ Clifford James said today.

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

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

James, the funeral home’s general manager, said that when the Ross 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 assistant funeral director’s explanation that death and makeup sometimes change a body’s appearance.

“When you look at pictures of them, you say how could this possibly be?” said Cheryl Woods, Elizabeth Woods’ daughter-in-law. She said Woods had withered to perhaps 130 pounds and had very little hair after chemotherapy. Ross, by contrast, weighed about 200 pounds and was considerably taller than Woods.

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

James stood by the employee who switched the tags. “He’s a young man that made a mistake,” he said.

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