BELLE GLADE, Florida (WPTV) — A baby lives just hours, but instead of being able to lay him to rest, the family finds their grief compounded after they say the funeral home gave them the wrong ashes after cremation.
“No one should ever experience this. No one,” the baby’s mother Tiesha Mack said.
Mack lost her son Shaquille Burroughs Jr. in July.
Her family hired Taylor Smith and West Funeral Home in Belle Glade to cremate the body.
“Everything seemed normal. At the time it seemed normal,” Mack said about the funeral home.
Mack says she was told the baby’s ashes would be ready in a couple of days.
But days became weeks.
“She kept prolonging things and giving me excuses. The ashes still hadn’t come back,” Mack said.
A full month went by and that is when the baby’s grandmother says she got the call the ashes were finally ready.
“When I arrived and picked them up I was saying to myself these urns are heavy,” the grandmother Tequila Burroughs said.
The baby’s other grandmother says she had an immediate feeling the ashes were not her grandson’s.
“I told her I really don’t think that’s the baby. That was my gut feeling,” grandmother Charlene Edwards said.
The family took the ashes to the crematorium they say was listed on the death certificate.
“We had the ashes tested at the crematorium and it was a grown adult,” Edwards said.
A grown adult, not an infant according to the family.
The family says they then took that information back to workers at Taylor Smith and West Funeral Home.
“She came out and told us the truth. She said ‘yes, the baby is still here,’ ” Edwards says an employee told her during a meeting at the funeral home.
Edwards says they discovered the baby was stored all along in the funeral home inside a freezer.
“To hold a straight face and lie about something like that about a loved one was terrible,” the grandmother Tequila Burroughs said.
WPTV went to the funeral home, but was told they would not answer any questions.
The attorney representing the funeral home is also not commenting.
The family hired attorney Charles White.
“Nobody knows what would have happened to that baby. It might have still been sitting there in the freezer…someone has to pay and this funeral home is going to pay,” White said.
The baby has still not been cremated and the baby is being held at the crematorium.
“I haven’t been the same since this happened,” the baby’s father Shaquille Burroughs said.
The entire family says they can’t find closure and they are concerned another family is also suffering because they have the wrong ashes.
The baby’s mother Tiesha is taking it especially hard.
“She was already going through enough that her baby didn’t make it and for someone to give you ashes that you are cherishing and thinking it is your baby and then you find out it is not your baby,” Edwards said.
The family’s attorney filed a lawsuit against the funeral home.
It is at least the third lawsuit filed against the funeral home.
Among the lawsuits, a different family says they were given the wrong ashes, and they claim their mother’s body is still missing.
The Office of the Chief Financial Officer of Florida says they are aware of the situation and are looking into it.
A representative with that office says it is against Florida law for them to confirm whether there is an active investigation.
But the baby’s family and the crematorium involved both say they are cooperating with a state investigation.