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updated: 10/24/2013 8:40 AM

Family finds wrong body in the casket

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Associated Press

CHEHALIS, Wash. -- The family of Jerry Moon wants to know how the wrong body ended up in his casket at his Washington state funeral.

Family members were horrified Monday when they looked in the casket and saw the body of another man, The Chronicle reported Tuesday. They have hired a lawyer and asked the state Department of Licensing to investigate.

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Moon, a retired railroad conductor from Castle Rock, died Oct. 13 at Community Home, Health & Hospice in Longview at age 72. Dahl McVicker Funeral Home in Kelso picked up his body the same day, and Brown Mortuary in Chehalis transported the body from there a day later.

Brown Mortuary Manager Daniel LaPlaunt said the bodies of the two men were mislabeled at the Kelso funeral home. His company has changed its policy to require family identification before any services, in hopes of avoiding similar problems in the future.

LaPlaunt was reluctant to blame the Kelso home and said he was speaking in hopes of countering incorrect information in news reports.

Ken Dahl, president of Dahl McVicker Funeral Home, would not comment on the case.

"In the interest of protecting the privacy of the family we're serving we've been asked not to discuss this with anybody," Dahl said.

Moon's son, Brian Moon, of Chehalis, said he learned from Dahl after the mix-up was discovered that his dad had been cremated. "My dad feared cremation and didn't want any part of it," Moon said. "He spent a lot of time and money and he wanted to be buried next to his father and mother."

The family has said if the ashes are confirmed to be Jerry Moon's, they will be buried at Claquato Cemetery in Chehalis, where a graveside memorial was canceled after the mix-up.

Meanwhile, the man who was supposed to be cremated was dressed in Moon's clothes and placed in his casket for the funeral at Brown Mortuary Service, Moon said.

When the casket was opened, friends and family were shocked.

"That poor guy was dressed in my father's clothes in front of hundreds of people," Moon said.

LaPlaunt said his employees "were presented with an individual clearly marked with an ankle bracelet that said this was Mr. Moon" at the Keldo funeral home. "We brought this body back believing it to be Mr. Moon." But it was actually Robert Petitclerc, 97.

Petitclerc was cremated and his family now has his ashes.

Christine Anthony, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Licensing, said the department will investigate whether the remains of the two men were properly identified, and if Brown Mortuary correctly followed the directions of the family. Properly identifying the remains and following the family's directions are mandated by state law, Anthony said.

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