Military man buried in wrong grave, wrong uniform


Often we entrust the bodies of our loved ones to funeral services directors and staff, and we often pay thousands of dollars for funeral and burial services. We expect them to get it right. Every time.

But last year in Fairfax, Virginia, a funeral home got it terribly wrong.

They buried the wrong man in a grave. And to make the body mix-up matter worse, the funeral home dressed the wrong man in the other man’s military uniform.

Once the family of the decorated military colonel Joseph Chapman realized the mix-up — and saw that it wasn’t their father’s body in the casket at the funeral home — their shock turned to anger and disgust.

Jim McLain, a Virginia resident, went to view the body of his father at  funeral home and immediately realized it wasn’t his 80-year-old dad.

“This just isn’t right. This should never, never happen. This is something you read in a fiction novel or see in a movie on TV,” McLain told WJLA TVlast December. (Click here to watch the TV news report.)

McLain says he told funeral home staff that it wasn’t his father’s body, but his complaint was initially dismissed.

But his dad’s twin, who had arrived from Tennessee at the funeral home, also insisted the man in the casket wasn’t his brother. They even held up a photo from the son’s phone beside the body to prove a mix-up had occurred.

Once the Everly Funeral Home finally realized its mistake, it explained that Chapman had been buried in the other’s man’s grave. And the man who was supposed to be buried was wearing Chapman’s military uniform.

Chapman’s family was told they would need to get a judge’s order to exhume the body.

Joseph Chapman’s son said his father was a decorated Army colonel — it had taken his dad 28 years to earn to earn the uniform.

“My dad’s uniform… that’s degradation beyond words for a military man,” McLain told WJLA.

The family was so upset that they initially called police, who explained that mixing up bodies inside a funeral home is not a crime.

It wasn’t the first time a funeral home had a bodies mix-up. We earlier wrote about the case of Jerry Moon, 72, who died late last year in a community outside of Seattle.

Moon had died at the same time, and at the same hospice in Washington State, as a 97-year-old man.

When Moon’s family opened the casket to say goodbye one last time, they were shocked to find the 97-year-old man’s body in the casket. With a plastic bag over his head.

Washington State regulators investigated and found the mix-up occurred after the two men died the same day at the same hospice. The Dahl-McVicker funeral home took both bodies from the hospice and was supposed to take Moon to the Brown Mortuary, but got the bodies mixed up.

Mr. Moon had been cremated against his wishes — he had a fear of cremation.

Last month, there was a similar story of two women whose bodies got mixed up after they both died while on vacation in St. Maarten. One was supposed to be sent to Barrie, Ontario, the other to New Jersey. You can read the Toronto Star story here.

This site is dedicated to the memory of our mother, Holly Haliburton, 95, who died a year ago. You can read about what happened to our mother after she died by clicking here.


Holly Haliburton in the 1940s, when she was 29

This entry was posted in Complaints about funeral homes and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Military man buried in wrong grave, wrong uniform

  1. Aunt Joyce says:

    Beautiful picture of Holly, thanks for sharing. Love fr us

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