As a result of the mistaken identification, the technician released the body of John Chappell, 36, instead of that of Judith Perez, 65, said Duval County Chief Medical Examiner Margarita Arruza.
“It was off by one digit. He released the wrong body to the funeral home, and obviously the funeral home never checked or looked at the body,” she said. She said the technician is no longer employed by her office.
Perez’s family had the body cremated and scattered the ashes in the ocean before the mistake was discovered when Chappell’s relatives showed up to claim his body.
Chappell’s brother in Jacksonville and sister in Mt. Morris, Mich., have notified the city of their intent to sue for negligence, said their cremation attorney Henry Gare.
“It is a very heartbreaking situation,” Gare said Wednesday.
Gare said the family had planned to scatter Chappell’s ashes at his grandfather’s grave in Michigan.
A woman who answered the telephone at Green Pine Funeral Home in Yulee and refused to give her name said Chappell’s body was received in a bag identified as Perez’s remains. Because the body was cremated, she said there was no reason to open the bag.
Arruza said she doesn’t remember her office mixing up any bodies since she joined the office in 1989