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Families deal with mortuary mix-up as 3rd comes forward

6:18 AM, Feb 1, 2010   |    comments
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9NEWS told the story of Imogene Jackson's family Saturday night. The Jackson family was shocked Friday when they attended an open-casket viewing only to find the woman in the casket was not their mother.

A relative, Bernard Black, says mortuary staff members tried to pass off the wrong body as Jackson.

"They took the clothes that were intended for Mrs. Jackson and put them on the other woman, and as I said, tried to convince the children that that was their mother. It's a terrible situation for which no one has owned up to," Black said.

The viewing hours had to be called off. It wasn't until Saturday morning, a few hours before the funeral, that Jackson's body was found. Family members say they were called down to the mortuary to identify the body.

Black says no one can understand how the mortuary made this mistake.

9NEWS has learned that the body used during Imogene Jackson's funeral was actually that of Evelyn Lucille Jackson. Her funeral had already taken place and her family thought she had been buried earlier in the month.

Evelyn Jackson's son, Jerry Twiggs, says Pipkin notified his family this weekend that the woman buried when his family gathered on Jan. 21 was actually not his mother but instead Imogene Jackson.

"It's devastating for me and my sister Johnnetta that this travesty has happened. We hope this doesn't happen to another family," he said.

Twiggs says his family held a viewing for his mother prior to her burial. During the viewing, Twiggs' sister, Johnnetta Jackson, and his mother's friend commented that Evelyn Jackson looked different. They said they did not think anything of it and understood that in death no one looks the same.

When Twiggs and his family were notified of the mix-up he gave the mortuary permission to exhume the body of Imogene Jackson.

He says his family plans to bury his mother, Evelyn Jackson, Monday morning. He will view the body of his mother at 9 a.m. to be certain of her identity before laying her to rest.

Twiggs tells 9NEWS he does not have ill will toward Pipkin which he regards as one of the most used funeral homes in the black community.

"We have worked together in corroboration to solve this problem. Seeing as to how we have done that, I'm going to lay my mother to rest. I'm not going to publicize my mother's death or publicize any infractions that were committed by Pipkin through my mother's death," he said. "We have resolved the problem. Hopefully this will give a heads up to everyone with loved one that we must take our time regardless or grief or frustration when we lay our loved ones to rest."

The owner of Pipkin Mortuary, Mark Pipkin, showed up to direct Imogene Jackson's funeral Saturday morning. When 9NEWS tried to speak with him, he said he could not comment because he was working.

Before the funeral, he did talk to 9NEWS on the phone. He would not say how the mortuary mixed up the two bodies. He would only say: "Yes we did dress the wrong body. But all is rectified and the funeral will go on."

Imogene Jackson's family says they are not satisfied with Pipkin's response.

But the mix-up between the Jackson families is not the first problem Pipkin Mortuary has had.

Previous problems at Pipkin

Another family has stepped forward about its frustrating experience with Pipkin Mortuary.

"Miss Unhappy," who prefers to keep her real name anonymous, says she experienced heartache five years ago after her husband died. She arranged for his funeral to be taken care of by Pipkin Mortuary. She was forced to relive his funeral twice after Pipkin apparently got its scheduling wrong.

On the morning of her husband's burial, Miss Unhappy says she was empty and in shock.

When her family arrived with her at the cemetery they learned that Pipkin Mortuary had not scheduled a funeral for that day at all.

Not only did they have the wrong date, an entire ceremony and funeral had to be put on hold.

"When we went to the cemetery they weren't ready to accept the body," she said. "Went back to the mortuary with the body, the next morning we were told we'd have another funeral."

Miss Unhappy was compensated $500 for the mistake.

"When you bury your loved one, that's supposed to be final. I still haven't been able to mourn [my husband] like I should have been able to do at that particular time," she said.

She says she wanted to tell her story after hearing of what happened to Imogene Jackson's family this weekend.

Miss Unhappy hopes that sharing her story will mean no one else has to live through the heartache her family has been through.

"I don't think it was done deliberately. We are human; mistakes can be made and are made. My point is how many other families have been traumatized to a certain extent?" she said.

"They came in gung ho, very sympathetic. We appreciate that because we were in mourning. After that, it seems like the bottom fell out of it. There was no, 'I'm sorry, what can we do to make it better?'" she added.

Denver Police were called out to the Pipkin Mortuary Friday night. Lt. Matt Murray says officers spent about an hour there, and that the department is monitoring the case.

He adds that a detective is now looking into the case further, based on what he's learned from 9NEWS. Lt. Murray says the detective may present evidence to the district attorney for possible charges.

(KUSA-TV © 2010 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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