Grieving mom says baby’s ashes mishandled by funeral home, files suit

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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A grieving mother sued a Dayton area funeral home for allegedly mishandling her daughter's ashes.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Thomas Funeral Home allegedly lost the cremains of a mother’s stillborn daughter and covered up their actions by giving her four containers allegedly filled with the baby’s ashes, according to a lawsuit filed in Montgomery County Common Pleas Court.

Brandy Davis’ baby, Bradleigh Lee Black, was stillborn Sept. 16, 2016 and Davis paid the Trotwood funeral home to cremate her daughter two days later, according to the suit.

“Ms. Davis had hoped to love and honor her daughter by keeping her cremains safe,” according to the complaint written by Jennifer Branch, Davis’ attorney. “However, Thomas Funeral Home lost Bradleigh’s cremains and (are) covering up their actions by providing her, on four separate occasions, containers allegedly filled with Bradleigh’s cremains.”

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Neither funeral home owner James K. Thomas nor his attorney were immediately available to comment on the lawsuit. The funeral home has not yet responded in court to the lawsuit.

Davis alleges, in the lawsuit, that the funeral home first told her that her baby’s ashes all fit into two half-teaspoon, heart-shaped urns attached to two necklaces.

The complaint alleged that on Oct. 7, 2016, Davis was given the two tiny necklace urns and assured all of her infant daughter’s cremains were inside.

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Skeptical and grief stricken, the complaint said, Davis asked, “Where is the rest of my baby?” Davis was told she couldn’t look inside the urns because they’d been sealed, according to the suit. The next day, according to the complaint, Davis opened the urns and they were empty, leaving her “heartbroken and distraught.”

Funeral home director Carolyn Owens apologized to Davis and promised to investigate, according to the lawsuit.

Days later, according to the lawsuit, owner James Thomas “threw a common plastic Ziploc sandwich bag on the desk” and said the few ounces of light gray powder was Bradleigh’s cremains.

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Owens apologized again and wrote Davis a personal check for $250, which Davis didn’t cash, the complaint alleged. The lawsuit alleged Owens asked Davis if DNA testing would give her reassurance, but Thomas said it was not possible.

Through an attorney, Davis arranged for DNA testing and for the funeral home to keep the container in a safe, but the material sent to the lab consisted of larger, darker particles than Davis saw. Photos of the different cremains are included with the lawsuit. Results came back inconclusive, the lawsuit said.

A fourth bag was provided to Davis in May 2017 and DNA testing results had not come back yet, according to the lawsuit.

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The complaint alleged that Premium Mortuary of Carlisle — not Thomas Funeral Home — placed Bradleigh’s cremains in a bag that was zip-tied with a metal ID and placed inside an urn with another ID tag and paperwork, which was placed inside a box with another ID.

The complaint, contradicting Thomas’ actions when he presented a Ziploc bag, said that “at no time did the mortuary place Bradleigh’s cremains in a plastic Ziploc bag.” A message left by this news organization at the now-closed mortuary was not returned.

The mortuary is not named in the complaint; it is identified only in photos attached as exhibits to the complaint and filed with the court.

The lawsuit asks for a jury trial and alleges negligence, infliction of serious emotional distress, interference with a dead body, intentional misrepresentation and breach of contract. Defendants named are the funeral home, James K. Thomas Corporation and Thomas himself.

The defendants “acted to cover up their actions, and actively concealed from Ms. Davis the whereabouts of Bradleigh’s cremains and the fact they lost Bradleigh’s cremains,” Branch wrote. “To this day, Ms. Davis does not know where her daughter, Bradleigh is. She worries her daughter is alone, unprotected, and unsafe.”


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