Frank J. Kerrigan, 82, was devastated at the loss of his son, Frank M. Kerrigan, who he had been told was found dead behind a store in Fountain Valley, Orange County.
With a heavy heart, he set about making arrangements for his son’s funeral. With mourning family gathering around. He buried his son near Catherine Kerrigan, his late wife. Kerrigan’s daughter, Carole Meikle, created a shrine behind the store where the body was found, with a photo and flowers.
But just 11 days after saying farewell to his son, Kerrigan received a phone call.
‘Your son is alive,’ said family friend and pallbearer at the funeral, Bill Shinker.
Putting young Frank on the phone his first words were: ‘Hi Dad.’
A shocking mix-up at the Coroner’s Office had led to young Frank being identified as the body behind the shop - when in fact he was very much alive.
While there were several signs to indicate that Frank’s son was not the person the coroner thought he was, Frank was so overcome with grief he didn’t think to dispute them.
Kerrigan says the person belongings he was given that were meant to belong to his son weren’t familiar, and several of Frank’s prized possessions - a writing pen and a watch - were missing.
When the body was discovered, Kerrigan asked if he was needed to come identify the body but was told fingerprint records had confirmed the man was Frank. This turned out to be false.
The entire claim that the body belonged to Frank rested on a witness who thought the body sort of looked like him.
And while the family say that they are delighted that Frank did not in fact die - the trauma of burying their loved one is still there.
‘He was dead on the sidewalk. We buried him. Those feelings don’t go away,’ says sister, Carole.
The fingerprints were later matched with another person, and it is believed that is who is now buried in Frank’s place.
Frank, who is homeless and suffers from mental illnesses, is also now believed to be dead by the government, who have cut him off from financial assistance.
The family have taken steps to sue the Coroner’s Office.