San Antonio family says grandma’s remains found after body switch that led to to $1M lawsuit

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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Funeral home accused of putting wrong body in casket, San Antonio family sues

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Update 4:40 p.m. EDT May 7: The body of Rosita Esquivel was mistakenly switched with that of Delores Gutierrez Deleon, KSAT reported.

The family for Esquivel had a service at Funeral Caring USA but did not think the woman in the casket was their mother. The two families were able to reunite their relatives remains.

"We thought we would never see her again, so we're happy that she's home," Irene Blanco told KSAT about Deleon, her grandmother. "We're all together, and now we're complete."

Original report: When a Texas family gathered for a rosary to pay tribute to their beloved matriarch on Friday, they were shocked when they looked into the casket. The woman was not their relative, they claimed.

They believe it was a million-dollar mistake and are suing the San Antonio funeral home that was in charge of the 78-year-old woman's remains, KSAT reported.

Dolores Gutierrez DeLeon died peacefully at home April 23, leaving five children, 17 grandchildren, 31 great-grandchildren and 11 great-great-grandchildren, San Antonio Express-News reported.

Family members decided to cremate her remains instead of having a traditional burial because of coronavirus restrictions and hired Castillo Mission Funeral Home to handle the arrangements, the newspaper reported. When the rosary ceremony was held, the family insisted the woman in the casket was not DeLeon, but funeral home employees told relatives it was, WOAI reported.

"As soon as we approached the casket and we viewed her, right away, we all knew it was not her," DeLeon's daughter, Irene Blanco, told KSAT. "Her face, everything, was just completely different. There was no way it was her."

San Antonio police were called, and the family said the body was missing, the Express-News reported.

According to a lawsuit filed in the 407th District Court in Bexar County, Irene DeLeon Perez, DeLeon’s daughter, is seeking in excess of $1 million in damages. The lawsuit accuses the funeral home of negligence and of depriving the family of the right to dispose of the remains of the deceased. The lawsuit seeks a trial by jury.

Family members pointed out the body was missing a scar from hip replacement surgery that DeLeon underwent, according to the lawsuit.

"So it is 100% guarantee that that is not our grandmother," Blanco told KSAT.

Messages left for Luis A. Castillo at Castillo-Mission Funeral Home were not returned, the Express-News reported.

"Hi, unfortunately at this time, we can't comment on anything," an unidentified employee told a KSAT camera crew Tuesday.

A woman with a similar name -- Dolores A. Gutierrez -- is listed on the funeral home's website. She died April 21 and was buried hours before Delores Gutierrez DeLeon's rosary service.

The family hired attorney Mark Greenwald to represent them. Greenwald who handled the case of Julie Mott. in 2015, KSAT reported.

Her body was stolen from a different San Antonio funeral home and has never been found, the television station reported. A jury awarded Mott's parents $8 million after finding the funeral home was negligent.

“The DeLeon Family is horrified and devastated by the unexplained disappearance of their beloved mother’s body,” Greenwald said in a statement. “Further compounding this tragedy is the appearance of an unknown and unidentified (woman’s) body in the casket meant for (their) mother at the rosary.”

The family is looking for closure, Blanco told KSAT.

“There could be a mix-up of some sort, but it still does not excuse what happened today, like at all,” Blanco said. “I want to find my grandmother because with that woman, they buried her, so I don’t know if she was buried with the wrong family or she’s somewhere else.”

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