HEMET, Calif. (KABC) -- Twelve days after a 27-year-old man was found deceased in Indio, his family on Friday was still unable to hold a funeral in his honor because his body remained in the custody of the Riverside County coroner's office, which said his autopsy was delayed due to an "increased caseload."
In an interview with ABC7, Bianca Guzman spoke through tears at the kitchen table of her Hemet home and recalled her son Anthony Soto as a happy, free spirit.
"He was a mama's boy," she said. He was also her only child.
On Oct. 8, Guzman received devastating news from a detective with the Riverside County Sheriff's Department. Soto had been found dead in Indio.
"They said, 'Do you know Anthony Soto?' I said, 'That is my son -- tell me he is OK.' And she said, 'I'm sorry but he is not,'" said Guzman.
Nearly two weeks have come and gone since the notification. Family and friends have been told and funeral arrangements made, but Guzman said her son's body remained in the custody of the Riverside County Sheriff's Coroner's Bureau.
Guzman said she was told her son's body had not yet been autopsied.
"They told me it was going to be a week, then two weeks, and then they said its going to be a few weeks and every time I call they keep pushing it back," said Guzman.
ABC7 reached out to coroner's offices in San Bernardino, Ventura, Orange and Los Angeles counties, which told us that their initial autopsy exams usually take place within one to two days and up to a week.
In response to ABC7, the Riverside County Sheriff's Coroner's Bureau said in a statement:
"Mr. Soto's autopsy is scheduled for Monday, October 23, 2023. Upon completion of the autopsy, his remains will be released to Mrs. Guzman. As you mentioned regarding your findings from other county bureaus, autopsy timeframes vary for various reasons. Our cases are handled chronologically and scheduled for autopsy based on the doctor's availability. Unfortunately, the Riverside County Sheriff's Coroner's Bureau is currently experiencing an increased caseload.
"The Riverside County Sheriff's Coroner's Bureau works hard to provide the highest quality of service to the family members in our community," the statement said. "We understand the death of a loved one can be a very traumatic time and we will continue to put forth our best effort, so the families are able to make timely funeral arrangements."
Guzman told ABC7: "I need my son to be processed in a timely manner so that nothing -- any kind of evidence or any kind of injury prior injuries -- doesn't diminish or be gone."
For now, her son's funeral is on hold but she is worried that as more time passes she will not be able to see him for a final goodbye.
"I want to see my son, you know, I won't be able to see my son," Guzman said. "I don't want to see him if he is in terrible condition, you know and (the funeral home) told me he probably won't be viewable and that is heartbreaking because I want to see my son."