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Adams County Body Mixup Leads To Accidental Embalming

Investigator Brian Maass
(credit: CBS)

David Martinez Jr. (credit: CBS)

BRIGHTON, Colo. (CBS4) – The Adams County coroner’s office admits it confused two dead bodies and accidentally sent the body of a man to a mortuary where it was embalmed against the family’s wishes.

Family members say the 36-year-old man’s body was supposed to be left in its natural state.

“I couldn’t believe they could do that,” said Trish Martinez. “You think that’s a security place where they have to check and re-check. It’s unbelievable they would let that happen,” she said of the incident involving her husband’s body.

A CBS4 Investigation learned of the incident through legal documents that were filed earlier this year, although the incident in question took place Aug. 14, 2012. It has never been publicly revealed until now.

“It should never have occurred, it should never have happened,” Adams County Coroner Monica Broncucia-Jordan told CBS4. “A former employee didn’t follow office procedure and the wrong decedent was sent to the wrong mortuary.

“The body should never have been released in the first place and had it not been released the embalming would not have occurred.”

Broncucia-Jordan said her office has numerous measures in place to ensure incidents like this don’t occur. But she said the employee, a woman, disregarded several procedures. That woman was immediately fired and in a statement obtained by CBS4 said that she was sorry she made “such a huge mistake.”

According to interviews and documents reviewed by CBS4, after David Martinez Jr.’s death last August, his body was taken to the Adams County Coroner’s office. The family had planned to hold a viewing and then have him cremated.

(credit: CBS)

David Martinez Jr.’s family (credit: CBS)

Trish Martinez said it was important to her that her children see their father’s body in its natural state prior to the cremation.

However, on Aug. 14, a representative from a Denver mortuary came to the Adams County Coroner’s office to pick up the body of a man named Juan Garcia. The coroner’s office employee mistakenly turned over the body of Martinez Jr. The mortuary then embalmed the wrong body before discovering the mistake and returning Martinez’s body.

“It was unacceptable you could let this happen,” said Trish Martinez.

She said after the embalming her husband looked abnormal and unnatural and she said that prevented her from allowing her children to have one final look, one final connection with their father.

“It made me sad to know I could not do anything to keep him safe,” she said. “Just because they are gone, doesn’t mean their body doesn’t mean anything. I just hope they are held accountable because when a family member passes away you want them in the best hands.

“Their body is still part of your family, you know? They should be more careful and more secure in what they are doing.”

After discovering their mistake, Adams County paid an estimated $10,000 to cover mortuary and cremation costs for the Martinez family.

Trish Martinez said that’s not enough, and is considering legal action.

“I want them to be exposed. And they should be held financially responsible,” she said.

- Written by Brian Maass for CBSDenver.com