A father’s grief at a funeral for his dead son turned to shock after he discovered Orange County officials had made an identification mistake and his son was very much alive.
An internal investigation was underway Sunday into how the Orange County Coroner’s office misidentified the homeless son as the person found dead behind a telephone store in Fountain Valley, authorities said.
“The department extends regrets to the family of Frank M. Kerrigan, 57, for any emotional stress caused as a result of this unfortunate incident,” the sheriff’s department said in a written statementSaturday.
“As part of the internal investigation, this incident and all identification policies and procedures will be reviewed to ensure no future misidentifications occur,” according to the statement.
There was no word from officials of whose body was wrongly buried at the funeral, and the sheriff’s department did not release details of the misidentification.
“Keep in mind that an internal investigation is going on that will look into everything that was done,” Orange County sheriff’s Lt. Lane Lagaret said. “We cannot discuss the specifics of the case due to pending litigation.”
Kerrigan’s family was notified May 6 that the mentally ill, homeless relative was found dead behind a Verizon store in Fountain Valley, according to the Orange County Register.
The supposed dead man’s father, Frank J. Kerrigan, 82, offered to identify the body but was told the man had already been identified through fingerprints, according to the Register. An attorney hired by the Kerrigan family told the newspaper that coroner officials later told him there was no fingerprint match and they used an old photo from the younger Kerrigan’s driver’s license.
The family held a funeral for Frank M. Kerrigan May 12 but a long-time family friend contacted the elder Kerrigan May 23 and put the younger Kerrigan on the phone to talk to his father, the Register reported.
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. Kerrigan has returned to the street, the Register reported.
— Staff and wire reports