N.B. RCMP misidentify body, loved ones alert coroner before cremation
A Moncton family is breathing a sigh of relief after police misidentified a body found, but questions remain about how law enforcement made the serious mix-up.
The nightmare began early Tuesday morning when Dieppe, N.B., resident Donna Price was awakened by a knock at the door. Police officers from the Codiac Regional RCMP informed her investigators discovered a body that evening who was identified as her son. The officers characterized the death as a possible overdose.
The body of the man, who had no fixed address, was found inside a public washroom steps from Moncton City Hall just after midnight Tuesday.
“In that moment, my life was just -- it’s the worst news a parent can hear,” Price told CTV News. “It was just a blur after that.”
Shocked and devastated, the Price and her family began the daunting task of making funeral arrangements for her son and notified her child’s grandparents of the tragic discovery.
Later that morning, the coroner called asking whether they’d like him to be buried or cremated.
But a lawyer retained by the family says when a third party was sent to the son’s home to collect belongings and paperwork required by the coroner’s office, the individual was shocked to see the “deceased” son answer the door.
“I asked probably ten times, and they said, “Donna, he’s alive and well. I don’t know what to tell you,’” she said.
Price says the next few moments were a blur, but she remembers screaming and jumping.
“It felt like I was in a movie, or a bad joke,” she said.
According to the family’s lawyer, Brian Murphy, they immediately contacted the RCMP, who he says “responded by unapologetically challenging the news that their son was, in fact, alive.”
Rather than believing the parents about the mix-up, Murphy said the RCMP put the onus on the supposed victim’s family to let the coroner’s office know before the misidentified human remains were cremated.
“It was almost like we had to prove to [RCMP] that he was still alive,” she said.
“The RCMP instructed the Prices to contact the coroner’s office as it was no longer the RCMP’s problem,” Murphy said in a news release Friday.
Murphy noted the official at the coroner’s office was “very apologetic and helpful” but indicated to the family they could only rely on information received from law enforcement.
Shortly after the coroner’s office was notified of the mix-up, two RCMP officers visited the family at their home to explain what happened.
According to Murphy, investigators explained that a photo of the deceased was broadcast to all active RCMP members. A member responded to identify the victim, who was known to police.
Murphy said his clients have been traumatized by the misidentification, with some of the family seeking counselling and medical advice.
“The whole experience was traumatic,” Price said. “The grief and shock, having to tell loved ones of the loss… and to combine it with the arrogance and lack of empathy from the RCMP, it was just too much.”
The family has a background in corrections and law enforcement, and said compassion is key.
“We feel sorry for that person’s loved ones,” Price added. “The time wasted on identifying our son as the deceased should have been concentrated on identifying the actual deceased.”
“This is an egregious case of police negligence causing mental anguish, but worse a case of indifference to those of a lower economic earnings bracket,” Murphy said in the release. “If this had been a prominent, well-dressed individual in the same spot, we all know there would have been more scrutiny.”
Murphy says the family, who has chosen not to release their son’s name to the public, is set to pursue legal action.
“The total lack of remorse or an apology and the high-handed arrogant assumptions made about our son and the actual deceased person are so offensive,” said stepfather David Price.
New Brunswick RCMP Cpl. Hans Ouellette confirmed in an email to CTV News that investigators are in communication with family members about the situation.
“This is not a criminal matter, but may soon be part of a legal process,” Ouellette said. “Any evidence pertinent to this matter could be presented as part of a judicial or internal process.”
“The RCMP respects fair and impartial proceedings as part of the legal system. As such, it would be inappropriate to comment on evidence or other aspects that may be part of judicial or internal proceedings.”
In the meantime, Price is relieved her son is safe and sound, but she still finds herself grieving for the true victim.
“I feel extremely saddened by the person who has deceased and their family. They were robbed of 13 hours -- that was their time, not my family’s time to grieve.”
Price’s message for the RCMP is simple: “There are protocols in place. Please follow them.”
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