Family wants answers from Orange County coroner, believes there was 2nd mix-up

Thursday, February 15, 2018
Family believes there was 2nd mix-up after burying wrong body
An Orange County family who thought they buried a loved one now believes there was a second mix-up.

An Orange County family who thought they buried a loved one now believes there was a second mix-up, and they want answers.

"They covered it all up," said Francis Kerrigan. "They covered everything up."

It's been an emotional rollercoaster for Kerrigan and his family. Last May, Kerrigan was told his son, then 57-year-old Frank, had died and that his body had been found near a Fountain Valley Verizon store. He says when he asked about seeing the body, the coroner informed him that the body had already been identified.

Friends and family flew in from all over the country for the funeral. Then, 11 days after the burial, Frank - who is homeless and suffers from mental illness - showed up at the home of one of the pallbearers.

"It was great that he was alive, and we cherished that he's alive, but we also knew immediately there was somebody else that was gone that was a loved one in that grave," Kerrigan said.

Carole Meikle, Frank's sister, said the minute she found out Frank was still alive, her first thought was, "Where is the other family? Who have we buried."

They eventually discovered that the remains they buried belonged to John Dickens, another homeless man whose family lives in Kansas. His body was later exhumed and cremated.

Now, the family attorney, V. James DeSimone, believes the body originally found at the Verizon store was neither Frank Kerrigan nor John Dickens. He said the body had an entirely different physical description to both Kerrigan and Dickens and believes the entire case was grossly mishandled by the Orange County coroner.

"There's a third body, and nobody knows who it is except perhaps for the Orange County Coroner's Office," DeSimone said. "They did a cover-up by shipping them a body that roughly approximated the height and weight and physical resemblance of their son."

The Kerrigan family is now suing Orange County, saying they've suffered extreme emotional distress, grief and mental anguish. They also say they want answers.

"We're very, very concerned that this is deeper than just this situation." said Meikle. "There's another family we wholeheartedly believe is involved that doesn't know where their loved one is."

In a statement, the county said they are working to resolve three claims from the Kerrigan family and has not yet been served with a lawsuit as of Tuesday morning. According to the statement, the county "has paid the family more than $20,000 to cover expenses for the funeral of Frank M. Kerrigan."