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Grieving Father Receives Phone Call From "Deceased" Son After Coroner Wrongly Identified Body

Frank Kerrigan of Orange County, California, was left stunned when he picked up the phone and heard his recently deceased son, 57-year-old Francis Kerrigan, answer. Two weeks before receiving the life-changing phone call, 81-year-old Frank had buried Francis next to his late wife. According to Frank’s attorney, the funeral costs amounted to $20,768.

Francis, a homeless person who suffers from an unnamed mental illness, had reached out to an old family friend, who had served as a pallbearer at Francis’ funeral, asking to call his father. When Frank picked up the phone, the unnamed family friend quickly told him: "Are you sitting down? Frankie is alive," handing the phone to Frank. When appearing on NBC’s ‘Today Show’, Frank relayed the ensuing conversation, saying: "Frank gets on the phone, says, 'Hi, Dad, how are you doing?'”

Frank had received the tragic news of his son’s death several weeks earlier, with the Orange County Coroner’s office claiming that Francis’ fingerprints matched the body of a recently deceased homeless person. At the time, this was a heartbreaking revelation for Frank, saying: "As soon as they said that it was by his fingerprints, that was the dagger in my heart."

When he contacted the Orange County Coroner’s office, Frank asked if he needed to personally identify his son. However, the distressed father was told that the identification had already been completed and that an autopsy was currently being performed on ‘Francis.’ Frank was slightly anxious about the identification process as the authorities had found no sign of his son’s belongings, including a prized pin and watch.

The wrongly identified body was found outside a mobile phone store in Fountain Valley, California. The unnamed man has now been identified and Orange County authorities are attempting to get in touch with his family. Although he remains thankful that his son is alive, Frank is outraged by the sloppy investigative work, saying: "It feels like a miracle that my son is actually alive, but that does not take away the pain and grief we've gone through since this ordeal began." Frank’s daughter, 56-year-old Carole Meikel, believes that "This was just blatant disregard because he was homeless, just a throwaway."

While discussing her brother’s unnecessary funeral, Carole recalled that "There were all kinds of cars behind the hearse. He wasn't just a homeless guy; he was my brother. He was a real loved family member.”

After consulting with the family’s attorney, Frank and Carole have decided to file a lawsuit against Orange County, citing emotional distress and civil rights violations. The attorney, Matthew Easton, released a statement, declaring that the Kerrigan family are pursuing over $2 million in damages, and want to "help prevent incidents like this in the future and ensure that the homeless are treated with the dignity and humanity that all people deserve, both in life and death."

Mr. Easton later expanded on his original statements, saying: "that cemetery, which used to be a place of serenity and calm where the matriarch of the family is buried and where they thought they were interring their son and brother to be at peace with her, is now desecrated."

Source: CNN
Photo: CNN Screenshot

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