LONGVIEW -- The family of a Castle Rock man was shocked to find a different body in their loved one's casket as they tried to give him one last goodbye Monday, the Longview Daily News reported.
Now, the grave mix up has state investigators digging into clues to find why the body exchange happened; and if it has occurred before.
Donald Moon, 72, died at a Longview area hospice home on Oct. 13 and his body was removed from the home by the Dahl-McVicker funeral home in Kelso in preparation for burial, the Daily News reported.
Moon's family was at his wake Monday when they asked funeral officials if they could open his casket and take one last look at their loved one. Officials said yes. But instead of Moon, the family found 97-year-old Robert Petitclerc's body in his place.
The site of another body in their beloved's casket understandably caused some shock.
"You can't wrap your mind around it," Moon's stepdaughter, Tammy Sweet, told the Daily News. "There is no closure now."
According to the Daily News, both Moon and Petitclerc's bodies were picked up from the Longview hospice home on the same day. Moon was supposed to be taken to Brown Mortuary in Chehalis and Petitclerc was supposed to be cremated in Kelso. Instead, Petitclerc's body was put in the casket and Moon's was cremated -- something Moon's family said he was adamantly opposed to.
In fact, if the family had not asked to open the casket for a last look, Petitclerc's body would have been buried in Moon's grave.
Moon's family has still not accepted his ashes. Brown Mortuary released this statement Wednesday.
"We do no comment on any client families or their situation specifically. We believe we have the very best training in the industry and that our policies and procedures are outstanding. However, from time to time mistakes are made. When that happens, our policy is one of full disclosure to the family and we work with them to come to an accord."
Following the realization, Petitclerc's body was removed from the casket and he was cremated, per his family's wishes. Petitclerc's family told the Daily News that while the mix up was unfortunate, it had little effect on the family except to delay the delivery of the ashes for "a day or two."
It was Moon's family who suffered the brunt of the emotional stress.
"It is like it happened all over again that he passed away," Sweet said. The final burial has not happened."
Both funeral homes are being investigated by Washington State's Department of Licensing, the agency in charge of licensing funeral homes and crematoriums. Christine Anthony with the DOL said neither funeral home has prior infractions. She also said a mix up of this kind is "rare."
"Something like this comes up only every five years or so," Anthony said.
There is no word if a civil suit is pending.