Family suing after their matriarch was mistakenly cremated in Phoenix

A family is suing a Phoenix mortuary after a woman was accidentally cremated.
Published: Mar. 2, 2023 at 4:31 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) — The Valley family of Joann Stephens says their matriarch was mistakenly cremated instead of being prepared for burial, violating her dying wish. Now they’re filing a lawsuit against Eastlake Mortuary in Phoenix, hoping this never happens again. “It stays in our face, what happened. We could not honor her dying wish,” said Jason Glenn, Stephens’ son.

Glenn says his mother lived a long, happy life. “She was the best mother, but she was the best grandmother,” Glenn recalled. He said she was so positive and humorous even throughout her six-year battle with dementia.

On Nov. 15, Stephens died peacefully in her memory care home. “The night she passed, she was already gone. I just rubbed her hand and said, ‘Mom, I’m going to see you one last time, and we are going to get you all dolled up.’ She loved her lipstick and I said, ‘We are gonna get your lipstick, your makeup, a beautiful gown. We are going to get you that funeral you wanted,’” Glenn said.

The next steps, Glenn says, were already figured out. They just met with Eastlake Mortuary to finalize the funeral. “This particular funeral home is well-known in the Black community specifically. Everything went so well when we left there. We were excited. We got everything we wanted in the kitchen sink, so to speak,” said Glenn.

That was until they got an unexpected call asking them to come immediately to the mortuary. “It kinda sends chills just to talk about, when he said those words, that we regret to have to inform you that your mom has been cremated,” Glenn said.

Stephens strongly believed in the Christian faith–where cremations are not usually performed. “She would clearly say, even in her dementia state, you are not going to burn me up. I’ve been good all my life,” Glenn said. “Her last wish was that she wanted a beautiful funeral. It’s like, I can’t. It’s hard to find closure in that.” Now the family is suing Eastlake Mortuary for breach of contract, negligence, and negligent infliction of emotional distress. Attorney C. Randall Stone is confident in this case. “We don’t have any doubt. There wasn’t proper supervision. It seemed like there wasn’t proper training. No proper procedures. That’s just a mistake that can’t happen,” said Stone.