Body Exhumed In Orange County After Coroner Wrongly IDs Deceased Man
The body of a 57-year-old man named John Dickens has been exhumed after the Orange County coroner's office misidentified Dickens' body in June as that of a man who is still alive. The coroner's office initially identified the body as Frank Kerrigan, a mentally ill man who chooses to be homeless in Orange County. Eleven days after Kerrigan's family buried the body, they received a call from a friend who said Frank was still alive, which meant they buried the body of someone they didn't know.
When Kerrigan's family received word of his death in May, the coroner's office said they had ID'd Frank using his fingerprints, according to the O.C. Register. Kerrigan's family saw the body days after the death, according to ABC, and while they say he was tough to recognize, grief and trust in the coroner's office led them to believe it was Frank. The family buried the body at the Holy Sepulcher Cemetery in Orange County.
Once the family learned Frank was still alive, it became clear the coroner's office hadn't actually identified the body correctly. While the coroner's office said they ID'd him using fingerprints, the fingerprints didn't actually come up with a match in the law enforcement database, so officials instead made visual identification by comparing the body's face to an old ID photo of Frank's, according to the OC Register.
John Dickens, the man who actually died, was also homeless. After Kerrigan's family learned Frank was still alive, the coroner's office performed a separate fingerprint ID and identified Dickens, according to the OC Register. Dickens' family lives in Kansas, and they had hired a private investigator to locate him. The investigator failed, but the family did learn Dickens had spent time in an Orange County jail in 2016. His sister, Diane Keaton (not that Diane Keaton), did research of her own and learned about the mistaken burial, which led to Dickens' proper identification.
Dickens' ashes have been sent to his family in Kansas. Kerrigan's family will file a claim alleging the coroner was negligent, according to ABC. They spent $20,000 burying John Dickens.