Family accuses NJ funeral home of showing them wrong body at private ceremony

PATERSON, N.J. (News 12/CNN) - A family plans to sue a New Jersey funeral home after they say the death of a loved one was made even worse when the funeral home mixed up the body with another one.

Already mourning Doris Chapman, her best friend and mother, Venessa Primus says the mix-up at Bragg Funeral Home in Paterson, N.J., makes the grieving process even harder. She and other family members went to say a private goodbye to Chapman, who passed away earlier this month, the day before the funeral.

The family of Doris Chapman, right, says a stranger was in her coffin, wearing her clothes at a private goodbye before the funeral.
The family of Doris Chapman, right, says a stranger was in her coffin, wearing her clothes at a private goodbye before the funeral. (Source: Family photos/News 12 New Jersey/CNN)

But it wasn’t Chapman they saw.

Instead, the family says a stranger was in her coffin, wearing her clothes.

"The family is very devastated and traumatized. Why? Because we knew that lady sitting before our eyes in the coffin the night before was not our grandmother,” Geralyn McNeal said.

Family members say no matter how many times they told workers that the body was not Chapman’s, they were told otherwise.

"They kept insisting that was my grandmother, that things do happen, the body does change. We couldn't believe it, but we had no choice but to believe it for the moment,” McNeal said.

The family says Chapman’s body was in the casket for the service the next day. At least one funeral home employee allegedly admitted to the mistake.

Chapman’s family wants an apology and answers as to how this happened. They also plan to sue the funeral home, hoping to prevent another family from having to go through the same experience.

"We're still traumatized. We want to know how that mistake came about. Although mistakes do happen, we still want to know how that mistake came about,” McNeal said.

A representative from the funeral home did not wish to comment on the incident.

Copyright 2019 News 12 New Jersey, Family photos via CNN. All rights reserved.