Family sues Phoenix mortuary following accidental cremation

Eastlake Mortuary in Phoenix is facing a lawsuit after a family claims the funeral home cremated their loved one by accident.

Joanna Stephens passed away in November 2022 after battling dementia. Her family members say Stephens had indicated to them that she wanted an elaborate funeral with an open casket.

Stephens' son, Jason Glenn, recalled what he told her the night she passed.

"I just rubbed her hand and said 'Mom, I'm going to see you one last time, get you all dolled up.' She loved lipstick. ‘Get you lipstick and makeup. You’re gonna be beautiful. You're gonna get that funeral that you always told us you wanted,'" said Glenn.

In fact, Stephens' family had already planned and paid for her funeral and burial arrangements.

The next day, Stephens' family carefully chose her casket, as well as a gown for her to be buried in. Later that evening, Glenn said the funeral director called and asked them to come back to Eastlake Mortuary.

"When we got there, he said, 'I regret to have to inform you that your mom was cremated last night,'" said Glenn. "No explanation. He said the two people that deal with this part of the business would be reprimanded, and that's all we got."

Several family members had already flown into Arizona from Michigan for the funeral. They held a memorial celebration instead for Jo-Jo, as Stephens was called, and released balloons. The mortuary gave the family an urn with Jo-Jo’s ashes inside, but that urn is now a reminder of her last wish going unfulfilled.

"That's just a mistake that can't happen," said Glenn.

Glenn says they are now questioning whether the ashes they received are really that of Stephens. The family is suing the mortuary for the horrifying mistake, saying the funeral home was negligent and breached the contract. Meanwhile, the family’s attorney says they plan to further investigate how this mistake happened.

We have left several messages with the mortuary, but we have not received a response so far.

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