Official seal of the Los Angeles County Coroner. Image in the public domain.
Official seal of the Los Angeles County Coroner. Image in the public domain.

A “devastated” Monterey Park woman who sued Los Angeles County, alleging the coroner’s office cremated her baby daughter’s body in 2016 without notifying her beforehand, told a jury Wednesday that the action prevented her from giving the infant a Catholic burial.

Yvette Diaz’s daughter, Auroanne Delatorre, died at a hospital a day after her birth on May 27, 2016. The body was brought to the coroner the next day and cremated on Aug. 10, 2016, according to Diaz’s Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit that is being tried before a Los Angeles Superior Court jury.

“I was devastated I was not going to see my baby,” Diaz said.

The plaintiff alleges she told a coroner’s investigator in June 2016 that she wanted an open-casket funeral for her child.

The suit says “Diaz informed (the investigator) that she is Catholic and wanted Auroanne’s remains handled this way without cremation because of her religious beliefs.”

The investigator responded, “We will send you a letter to let you know when your baby is ready,” according to Diaz’s court papers, which say Diaz never heard from the investigator again.

She also alleges the coroner’s office waited almost two weeks to perform an autopsy, preventing the cause of her daughter’s death from being ascertained because the baby’s brain was partially liquified.

However, lawyers for Los Angeles County state in their court papers that the head of the coroner’s notification division called Diaz in July 2016 and left her a message.

“The voicemail stated that Diaz needed to make a decision about the remains…, according to the county’s court papers. “Diaz never contacted the coroner’s office about her funeral plans and so the coroner’s office arranged for the remains of Auroanne Delatorre to be cremated.”

In her testimony, Diaz said she became withdrawn after her daughter’s death and used her cell phone for limited purposes. She said she relied on her brother to tell her about what she received in the mail.

“I was lost,” Diaz said. “I didn’t know what to do next.”

Diaz said she has not tried to get her baby’s ashes from the coroner’s office, saying the facility is “filthy” and that the remains could be those of someone else.

Peter Diaz told jurors he was present in the hospital the day his niece died. He said his sister became “basically suicidal” after receiving the August 2016 letter from the coroner stating that her daughter’s body was cremated.

“She was in complete chaos, she was crying,” he said. “She told me the body was cremated and she was never going to see the baby again.”

He said he does not believe any of his deceased family members were cremated.

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