Family sues after receiving wrong cremated ashes

MCDONOUGH, Ga. — A Clayton County family that received the wrong cremated remains has sued a local funeral home, hospital and crematory.

None of the defendants accept responsibility for the mix-up, with the hospital and crematory pointing toward documented proof that they followed legal procedures in the cremation.

Channel 2 investigative reporter Nicole Carr reported on the parties involved on Christmas Eve when Patricia Bradley's family and legal team told their story.

In their possession is a box of assumed ashes that were handed to them by the Speers-Shelton Funeral Home in McDonough. That was in September, right before Bradley’s memorial service.

In mid-October, Southern Regional Medical Center called Bradley’s daughter in regards to claiming the body, and that’s when the family realized they’d been given the wrong ashes.

Carr went on to speak with Edwin Shelton, the funeral director, who claimed Cremation Services of Atlanta delivered the wrong remains and he thought he had the correct ones.

Mike Boston, the president of the Cremation Services of Atlanta, disputes every part of Shelton’s story, pointing toward a documented timeline that does not line up with Shelton’s account.

On Christmas Day, Bradley’s family named all three parties in the lawsuit in an attempt to trace the mix-up and seek compensation for the family, whose mother’s remains are still in Shelton’s possession.


Boston’s attorney advised against speaking in a television interview on Thursday, but he reiterated to Carr that the crematory did not become involved in Bradley’s cremation until Oct. 11, when Shelton’s funeral home delivered the body.

Shelton, he said, then signed for the clearly labeled and certified remains on Oct. 16, weeks after the wrong ashes were handed to the family.

Carr found Shelton’s family has been involved in the funeral service industry for more than four decades between Marietta and McDonough.

State records show a second major dispute resulted in the suspension of Shelton’s funeral director license and a 3-year probation term from 2009 to 2012.

The state found Shelton was partially responsible for keeping an unrefrigerated corpse in the funeral home for five months. It happened amid a financial dispute with a grieving family.

Before Monday’s phone interview, Shelton agreed to sit down with Carr in an interview regarding the error. He has not returned multiple messages since then.

In an updated statement issued by Southern Regional Medical Center, the hospital maintained they followed legal protocol in releasing Bradley’s body to Shelton’s funeral home, the entity Bradley’s family authorized for cremation.

The hospital hinted at legal action of its own in its full statement:

“Southern Regional Medical Center has provided the plaintiffs’ counsel, CK Hoffler, with detailed information that proves why Southern Regional had no role in this case and exonerates Southern of any wrongdoing. Official records and documentation show the hospital followed all appropriate processes and policies in releasing the correct body to Speer-Shelton Funeral Home. Although Ms. Hoffler’s complaint alleges that Southern Regional released a different body to Speer-Shelton Funeral Home earlier in time, this allegation is false.

"Southern Regional had no role in what occurred after the body was properly released to the funeral home.

"CK Hoffler’s tactics and lack of engagement in the truth is creating undue and unnecessary concerns to other individuals within our community. Ms. Hoffler is knowingly attempting to damage the reputation of Southern Regional without adequately investigating the facts. CK Hoffler appears more interested in shock and awe tactics than the truth. Southern Regional will vigorously defend ourselves and pursue all legal rights regarding these defamatory and false statements.”