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Phoenix mortuary facing lawsuit after unwanted cremation

Eastlake Mortuary faces claims of negligence, emotional distress, and breach of contract after the November 2022 death of Joanne Stephens.

PHOENIX — For years Jason Glenn said he and his mom Joann Stephens planned for her celebration of life after moving from Detroit to Phoenix.

“She would say, 'I want a beautiful funeral.' The casket, the color scheme. All of it was going to be to her liking because this is something that we talked to her about,” said Glenn.

November 15, 2022, Stephens, a mother of six, passed away at 86 after a long battle with dementia.

“The next morning, we rushed to the funeral home because we were ready. We had everything picked out. Everything was perfect, but it never came to fruition,” said Glenn.

The loss of his mom would become even more painful after Glenn, and his siblings learned their mom would not rest in eternal peace in the coffin she picked out but instead in an urn.

The family contracted with Eastlake Mortuary in Phoenix to handle Stephen’s funeral transport and services.

Glenn said as the family finalized arrangements, they received a phone call from the funeral director with news they weren’t prepared for.

"He said I regret to have to inform you that your mom was cremated last night. And to this day, when I say those words, exactly how he gave them to us. It brings chills,” said Glenn.

The family is still at a loss regarding how the mistake was made.

Glenn said they were given what they were told were his mother’s ashes after the mistake. But they’re not sure that it could be her.

"I looked at that urn. And I said if they got the remains mixed up and sent the wrong one to the crematorium. Then, are these the ashes of her or the one that should have gotten cremated,” he added.

Glenn and his siblings have filed a lawsuit in Maricopa County Superior Court against Eastlake Mortuary, hoping to get answers about what happened.

The 13-page lawsuit claims that Eastlake Mortuary breached its contract with the family. The lawsuit also has claims of negligence and emotional distress.

"Once we looked at the contract and everything that happened it was a shock to us. I’ve heard of a case like this happening in Texas, but that’s it,” said attorney C. Randall Stone.

Stone said with the filing of the lawsuit, he and his team can begin the process of depositions to find more details about how the mistake happened.

For nearly a week, 12News has contacted Eastlake Mortuary for comment on the lawsuit and the accidental cremation.

So far, the business has not responded to our requests for comment.

According to the Arizona Funeral Directors and Embalmers, Eastlake Mortuary’s active license expires in August 2023.

Glenn said the funeral home has apologized and refunded the money paid for his mother’s service.

Glenn believes his mother is at peace, but he isn’t.

“We just have to learn to find closure and move on with our lives. And that’s the struggle.”

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