KSNF/KODE — A Missouri family is claiming several mortuary companies made serious mistakes and botched the handling and delivery of their loved one’s remains, causing them extreme emotional and mental trauma.
Glenda Love, of St. Charles County, and her children filed a complaint in the Circuit Court of St. Louis that centers on several traumatic mishaps involving her husband, Fred Love, who died on September 25, 2022.
The 68-year-old was an organ donor, so the day after he passed away, the medical examiner transported his body to St. Louis-based Mid-America Transplant for the donation procedure on September 26th.
The circumstances of what happened next are a little murky, but what is known is the family signed a release allowing the medical examiner to transport Love’s body to Baue Funeral Home in St. Charles for embalming.
Baue Funeral Home had a contract with the medical examiner’s office and Mid-America Transplant which allowed for free embalming services and transportation to the funeral home of Love’s choice.
When Baue Funeral Home received Love’s body they also received a red plastic specimen bag which contained Love’s brain. As part of the embalming process, Love’s brain was removed from the red specimen bag and injected with a chemical called PermaCav 50, an embalming fluid. Rather than being placed back into Mr. Love’s body, his brain was returned to the bag and marked, “to stay with deceased, do not open.” Additionally, two red biohazard stickers were placed on the bag. That bag was then placed into a plain cardboard box, upon which the funeral home employee wrote a note that said, “To stay with deceased, do not open.” On the side of the box they also wrote, “Fred Love Jr. to stay with deceased, do not open.”
Love’s body was then transferred to Simpson Funeral Home in Webb City for the funeral. Two of the children reside in the Four State area. The family decided they wanted an open-casket funeral and because Love was a veteran, they wanted an American flag draped over the casket.
When the casket was opened, the family says they were “horrified and emotionally traumatized” to see Fred’s body. They say he was a “bruised purple color” and that he was “unnaturally positioned.”
The complaint filed in court includes two photos of Fred Love’s body. The photos show him laying in the coffin and he appears to be purple in color. His arms are also not folded over his torso as one would expect in an open-coffin funeral.
The family says the condition of Love’s skin and his arm placement was due to poor embalming practices and because the funeral home failed to remove metal rods that were used during the organ donation procedure.
After the funeral and graveside services, Simpson Funeral Home cremated Love’s body. His cremains were placed in an urn and then given to the family, along with his personal belongings, which, unbeknownst to the family, included the cardboard box containing his brain.
During the six-hour car ride from Webb City, back to to O’Fallon, a St. Louis suburb, Love’s daughter, Shawna Jones, said there was an extremely pungent chemical smell coming from her Hyundai SUV. Once home, the urn was placed inside Glenda Love’s home and the box in the garage, the complaint states. One of Glenda’s children shook the box and smelled it, “in an effort to determine the contents of the box,” according to the complaint. Eventually, they just left the box in the garage.
But the awful smell grew stronger as the days passed according to the family.
After a series of calls with all the parties involved in the process; Mid-America Transplant, Baue Funeral Home, and Simpson Funeral Home, the family took the box to Baue Funeral Home.
The family waited while Susan Short, the manager of Baue Funeral Home, opened the box. Almost simultaneously, Nace, the owner of Simpson Funeral Home, told separate members of the family, that the box contained Fred Love’s brain.
“Essentially, all the defendants placed blame on the others, and no one accepted responsibility for the brain being given to the family and not cremated with Fred,” according to the 28-page complaint.
The lawsuit names the Baue Funeral Home, Battlefield Bonded Courier, d/b/a Time Critical Medical Transport, Colby Hitchcock, Ria Knapp, Lyndse Bennet, Randy Nace, owner of Simpson Funeral Home and the Jasper County Coroner, Mid-America Transplant and Susan Short.
According to the complaint, Short allegedly told the family, “Essentially you guys were given a box that contains Fred’s brain by mistake by the funeral home.”
Since Love underwent a partial autopsy his brain was removed and embalmed separately from the body, Short reportedly told the family, according to the complaint states.
After the mix-up, Short offered to cremate the brain but noted that there would be no guarantee it would not be completely incinerated, the complaint states.
When asked why the brain was placed in a flag box – Short reportedly said the brain was put in the box because “for lack of a better explanation, it was a box that we had available.”
The family believes Baue Funeral Home “is still in possession of Fred’s brain” and as a direct result of the events at Baue Funeral Home, the family has suffered immense psychological trauma and pain, the complaint states.
“The brain itself will not result in a measurable amount of physical ashes to combine with those provided by Simpson’s Funeral Home,” the complaint states.
Colby Hitchcock, Baue Funeral Home director reportedly told the family an Embalming Case Report along with Fred’s brain was sent to Simpson Funeral Home.
Nace disputes Baue’s claim and reportedly told the family because there were no documents with the box – no embalming report – no documentation- he assumed the box may have contained personal effects and did not open it.
The Baue Funeral Home could not produce any verification the Embalming Case Report was sent with Love’s body, the complaint states.
Hitchcock admitted this is an uncommon result in the funerary industry and that was frustrating to him. He also reportedly stated that what happened was “inexcusable,” and that Baue wanted to ensure that this never happens to anyone else again.
The plaintiffs are asking the court for unspecified damages in the case. The complaint cites the defendants’ failure to adhere to Missouri state codes and regulations governing funeral establishments.
The complaint states that “the delivery of Fred’s brain to the widow in a cardboard box is so far outside the realm of reasonable care that negligence may be presumed by one or all of the Defendants in this case.”
Additional claims include fraud, violation of the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act, and interference with the family’s right to determine the final disposition of Mr. Love’s remains.
Mr. Hitchcock reportedly said multiple systems broke down but he was not going to bear 100% responsibility.