Mix-up at funeral home has family mourning the wrong body

By Calvin Palmer

The corpse might have been wearing the blue suit and black boots associated with Kenneth “Tex” Roberts but as mourners at a south Philadelphia church filed past the casket yesterday morning many knew it was not Tex.

Roberts, 80, died on Monday of a heart attack. That night his wife, Janie Holsey, went to check on the body at the funeral home and told a female employee: “This is not my husband.”

The employee at James L. Hawkins Funeral Home was adamant that it was and told Holsey: “That’s how they look when they die.”

Relatives of Tex spent two hours greeting mourners at Tindley Temple United Methodist Church and then an unidentified director at the funeral home took the family to one side and admitted there had been a mix-up.

Tex’s daughter, Rhonda Wearing, 52, said: “That was a hell of a mix-up.”

“It wasn’t my dad,” Wearing said. “It was some other person lying in my dad’s suit and clothes. He wasn’t dark and short. He was brown-skinned, 5-foot-9, about 180 pounds, and wore glasses. The man in the casket looked older than my father.”

Wearing said she was told that this other man had been killed.

When mourners were told it was not Tex’s body, many were traumatized by the news and poured out on to the street in a hysterical state.

Keith Harris, 19, had a seizure and was rushed to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. An unidentified woman had an asthma attack and was also taken to a hospital, Wearing said.

The funeral home found Tex’s remains, and rushed them back to the church. But a further horror unfolded when an assistant opened the door of the hearse – one of Tex’s legs was hanging out of the casket

“The casket had tilted and his leg was hanging out,” said Wearing.

She believes the hearse was driven so fast, hitting bumps in the road that  the casket opened.

“It was unspeakable,” she added.

The funeral home remained dead silent and declined to comment.

[Based on reports by the Philadelphia Daily News and Associated Press.]

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