"It's not that hard to keep track of dead people,” attorney James DeSimone tells the Orange County Register. “It’s not like they move around very much.” And yet, a California family who buried a stranger they believed to be their son and brother last May—who later turned up very much alive—after a mix-up by coroner officials now says an unidentified third body was also involved. "It's a horror show on top of a horror show," 82-year-old Francis Kerrigan tells the Los Angeles Times. It started when the Orange County coroner told Francis that his 57-year-old homeless son, Frankie Kerrigan, had been found dead outside a Verizon store. Francis was told Frankie had been identified by his fingerprints. Frankie's sister, Carole Meikle, says she was told by the coroner that a wallet found with the body contained Frankie's ID.
But 11 days after Frankie's funeral, he turned up alive at the house of a family friend. The coroner admitted the mix-up, revealing the buried body belonged to 54-year-old homeless man John Dickens. But in a lawsuit filed Tuesday, Frankie's family claims the body found outside the Verizon store didn't belong to Dickens, either. The suit states that reports from police and fire departments, as well as statements from Verizon employees, describe the body of a man about 65 years old and 250 pounds with long, dark hair. Frankie and Dickens are approximately 170 pounds, and Frankie has short, light hair. The suit, which seeks $5 million in damages, claims officials released Dickens' body because it looked enough like Frankie and "no one would care because the deceased were homeless." The reason for the initial mix-up is unknown, as is the identity of the possible third body. (Read more lawsuit stories.)