BA Cemetery, State ME Office And Others Sued Over Missing Remains


Wednesday, July 29th 2009, 5:52 pm
By: News On 6


By Lori Fullbright, The News On 6

BROKEN ARROW, OK -- Steve and Terry Copeland were interviewed on Monday by The News On 6 when they said the smell of a decomposing body was making it miserable for them to visit the final resting place of their seven-year-old son. Floral Haven is working on getting rid of the smell, which is not coming from the boy's crypt.

During The News On 6 investigation, a totally separate issue involving the Copeland family was found:  a lawsuit they filed three months ago against Floral Haven and a number of other businesses.

Court records show the Copelands' lawsuit says, among other things, that their son's organs were missing after his autopsy, and he was wrongfully buried without them.

J.J. Copeland died at the age of seven after an asthma attack on February 3, 2008.

"Here's a picture of our little man two weeks before he died," said Steven Copeland. "Oh, that's a good picture."

The Copelands' lawsuit says the Medical Examiner's office took control of J.J.'s body for an autopsy, and the family contacted Floral Haven to handle the arrangements.

Also alleged in the lawsuit:

  • That the Medical examiner's office improperly released the body without his organs to the transport service.
  • That the boy's body was exposed to the elements for six hours prior to embalming and was delivered  in an outrageous condition, by Ray Fransisco's Embalming Services without the organs to Floral Haven.
  • That Floral Haven embalmed and buried J.J. without his organs.

The people named in the lawsuit are accused of mishandling the boy's remains, either through negligence or for illegal profit.

07/27/2009 Related Story: Odor Of Decomposing Body At Broken Arrow Cemetery

In a statement filled out by J.J.'s father, Steven Copeland, he says he was waiting at Floral Haven for his son's body to be delivered in a Fransisco Embalming Services van.  Copeland says that when he opened the van doors, his son's body was off the gurney, not in a body bag, but wrapped in a bloody sheet and a blue blanket.

The boy's father says that when he unwrapped his son, the boy's body had not been stitched up, the chest and abdominal cavities were exposed and there appeared to be no internal organs.

All people and businesses being sued deny the allegations and have filed for the lawsuit to be dismissed.

The man who did the embalming on J.J. signed an affidavit saying "all organs received with the body from the Medical Examiner's office were placed inside the body" and were not removed afterward.

None of the lawyers representing the business or individuals named in the lawsuit would make any comment this early in the process, other than what they filed in court.  The attorneys pointed out that anyone can file a lawsuit and accuse people of anything; also, that it's wise to let the facts come out before judging.

The family's attorney told me the lawsuit speaks for itself, and they have reason to believe the facts are correct or they wouldn't have filed it.

A similar lawsuit was filed in March claiming a boy's organ's were misplaced or removed after his death. Watch The News On 6 or log onto NewsOn6.com for more on that story Thursday.