U.S. family demands answers after woman's body taken in stolen hearse

WATCH: A woman in California who had been following news coverage on Thursday about a hearse, stolen and later crashed on a freeway, learned later that evening that the body of a woman inside a casket still in the hearse was that of her own mother. She said what upset her most was learning about what happened from the media, alleging that the mortuary initially denied it was her mother.

The body of a 93-year-old woman was inside a stolen hearse that later crashed, and her family now claims the funeral home lied to them.

After being stolen outside of a church Thursday morning, the Chapman Funeral Homes hearse was involved in a short police pursuit before crashing on a South Los Angeles freeway.

The body of the late Jean Laviquette was in the hearse the whole time.

Her family only became privy to the harrowing details when the mortuary cosmetologist visited the Arcadia funeral home for one last touch-up.

“While I was looking at my mother’s body, I noticed that there were some stains on her shirt and I noticed that the mouth wasn’t right,” Therese Burch, Laviquette’s daughter, told Fox 11.


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“I do not know what to believe because the shirt is so dirty and I do not know what to think anymore — I know this vehicle was in an accident.”

According to the broadcast station, one of the funeral home owners, Terry Harman, said it was actually a man’s body in the back of the hearse, not Laviquette’s.

Global News reached out to Chapman Funeral Homes in Arcadia but didn’t hear back by the time of publication.

“I would have told you immediately if it was your involvement — it was not,” Harman reportedly told Burch.

“It was another family, they knew about it and everything is good. It was a gentleman and he is scheduled for cremation tomorrow.”


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Police confirmed to Fox 11 that the body in the back was female.

Watching video footage of the casket being removed from the hearse, Burch noticed some specifics of the box were similar to her mom’s.

“As I am watching the video, I notice that the casket is white with gold handles, which is the same casket that my mom is in,” Burch told Fox 11.

“I said, well Terry, I just want the truth… This is hurting me. There’s too many things that tell me it’s my mom,” Burch remembered.

“This went on for about 15 minutes and finally, he said, ‘it’s your mom.'”


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Mary Harmon, co-owner of the funeral home, told the station: “We are the victims. Our car got stolen last night with a body in it. We did not want this kind of media attention.”

The car, according to an LA County Sheriff’s tweet, was stolen on Wednesday night. “One casket with one deceased has been located inside the vehicle,” they wrote.

Later that day, the sheriff’s office made a plea: “Out of all the bad decisions you have made, at least make one good one & bring back the deceased person and casket inside the Navigator.”

Not long after the first tweet was published, a Good Samaritan reported the stolen vehicle and police officials were able to track it down and arrest the suspect.

San Bernardino County resident James Juarez, 25, was arrested that day in connection with the stolen Lincoln Navigator, NBC News reports.


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He was booked on a felony charge of grand theft auto and was being held with a $35,000 bail, according to jail records.

No information on Juarez’s future court appearance or release dates are listed.

meaghan.wray@globalnews.ca

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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