<img height="1" width="1" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=769125799912420&amp;ev=PageView &amp;noscript=1">
About Our People Legal Stuff Careers
In this Friday, June 23, 2017 photo, Frank Kerrigan holds onto a photograph of his three children John, Carole, and Frank, near Wildomar, Calif. Kerrigan, who thought his son Frank had died, learned he buried the wrong man. Kerrigan said the Orange County coroner's office mistakenly identified a body found dead on May 6 as that of his son. (Andrew Foulk/The Orange County Register via AP)

A father buried a man he thought was his son. But a week later his son turned up alive.


"Hi Dad," Frank M. Kerrigan said over the phone to his father.

Sounds pretty normal, right? Well, that wasn't the case for Kerrigan's 82-year-old father, Frank J. Kerrigan.

That's because Frank J. Kerrigan had laid his son to rest 11 days before receiving that call, or so he thought.

It's unclear exactly what led Orange County coroner's officials to misidentify the body of a man who was found dead behind a Verizon store in Fountain Valley, California, in early May -- but they did.

Frank J. Kerrigan received a call from the coroner's office and was told the body belonged to his 57-year-old son who is mentally ill and had been living on the street.

When the grieving father asked whether he should come identify the body, an official said his son's body had been identified through fingerprints.

"When somebody tells me my son is dead, when they have fingerprints, I believe them," Kerrigan said. "If he wasn't identified by fingerprints I would been there in heartbeat."

Frank J. Kerrigan holds onto a funeral card for his son Frank, near Wildomar, Calif. Kerrigan, who thought his son had died, learned he buried the wrong man. (Andrew Foulk/The Orange County Register via AP)

On May 12, the family held a $20,000 funeral that drew friends and family from as far away as Washington State.

"We thought we were burying our brother," said Frank's sister, Carole Meikle. "Someone else had a beautiful sendoff. It's horrific."

The body was interred at a cemetery in Orange, near where Frank J. Kerrigan's wife was buried.

Then, on May 23, the grieving father received likely the most unexpected phone call of his lifetime. Frank J. Kerrigan's friend, Bill Shinker, called to say the 82-year-old's son was standing on his patio.

Kerrigan's attorney, Doug Easton said the coroner's office wasn't able to identify the corpse's fingerprints through a law enforcement database so they used an old driver's license photo. When the family notified authorities that Frank M. Kerrigan was, indeed, alive, they were able to match the prints to someone else.

A spokesman for the coroner's office has since apologized to the Kerrigan family "for any emotional stress caused as a result of this unfortunate incident."

The Orange County Sheriff's Department is conducting an internal investigation to determine what led to the mix-up and to prevent something similar from happening again.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Read Comments
Facebook Twitter Instagram Pinterest Linked In List Menu Enlarge Gallery Info Menu Close Angle Down Angle Up Angle Left Angle Right Grid Grid Play Align Left Search Youtube Mail Mail Angle Down Bookmark