MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance has opened a second investigation into an Orange Mound funeral home related to the possible mix-up of cremains.
The second investigation comes after a complaint filed by two daughters links their mother’s case with another the Problem Solvers previously reported.
The mother of Angelina and Blandina Gooch died in November 2020, but they said it took months for the medical examiner to identify Luz Acevedo’s body. They got the news in February. They settled on using R. Bernard Funeral Services for the death arrangements.
“My sister, she’s the one who found the funeral home,” Blandina Gooch said. “R. Bernard had a package that we could afford.”
“They seemed really welcoming and easy to talk to on the phone,” Angelina Gooch said.
But they said the process got harder as they waited weeks for an update on their mom’s body that never came. Eventually they took matters into their own hands and contacting the medical examiner’s office, which gave them a different timeline than the funeral home.
“The original date of them picking her up from the morgue, they told my sister they got her. Even up to a point I believed they did have her, even with them taking so long, so that’s when I called the medical examiner’s office and asked them, ‘When did you release my mom’s body?’ That’s when they gave us the date of February 20th. That was a shock to me because [R. Bernard] were already saying they had my mother [on the 15th],” Blandina Gooch said.
Meanwhile, at the same time, Alfred Velasquez uncovered something else confusing when he opened his mom’s remains.
“We noticed someone else’s information inside the bag of ashes,” he said.
The information he found was labeled Luz Acevedo, the mother of Angelina and Blandina Gooch. The dates on the tag matched closer with the Gooch’s timeline for their mother instead of what Velasquez had been told for his mother.
“His mom’s death certificate has the date of March 4 on it and he picked up ashes the same day. If those ashes have my mom’s information on them, it would make sense that’s my mother’s due to the fact she was there for so long,” Blandina Gooch said.
The families connected and are now convinced they did not get the remains they should have.
“All we wanted was for her to be home. now that she’s not, it hurts I was just happy to have her. We finally got her. Now to know it’s not her, it hurts,” Blandina Gooch said.
An attorney for R. Bernard told WREG the mix-up just involved paperwork. When we followed up, he said his client had not made contact with the Gooch family.
“We understand why they’re upset but the fact of the matter is we can assure them they have the right ashes,” Randy Fishman said.
Still, once state regulators saw WREG’s original coverage, they said they added the second family’s case to their investigation.
“They need to be accountable,” Angelina Gooch said.
WREG also obtained documents showing similar earlier complaints, but the state closed its investigation without taking action.