By Suzanne Le Mignot

(CBS) — A funeral on the city’s South Side became a memorial service instead on Saturday.

That’s because the body of the deceased was missing.

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CBS 2’s Suzanne Le Mignot reports.

Among the wreaths adorned with roses and carnations are placards displaying the loving image of Ella Mae Rutledge. But the casket with her body is nowhere to be found.

“I can’t even grieve,” Rutledge’s daughter, Monique Williams, says.

Williams came to Leak and Sons Funeral Home to approve her mother’s body for visitation, before Saturday’s funeral service.

“Me and my brother say, ‘Dang! That don’t look nothing like Mom!’” Williams says.

The deceased woman had long nails. Rutledge’s nails were always kept short.

“The wig that I brought for her, I pulled it back. This lady got black hair. My mother has gray hair. I said, ‘Oh, no,’” Williams says.

Funeral home representatives then showed her three other deceased women, in the preparation room. None of them was her mother, Williams says.

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It turns out Williams’ mother had already been laid to rest, at Mount Hope Cemetery, on Friday – by another family.

“They 100 percent identified the person that they buried, on yesterday, as their mother. I said, ‘You all done lost my mother.’”

The other family allowed Rutledge to be exhumed. Her remains are now back at the funeral home.

“Out of respect for both families, we have no comment at this time. We plan to have the situation rectified in the coming days,” Leak and Sons said in a prepared statement.

“You all need have to have some kind of fail-proof system,” Williams says.

Leak and Sons says they have a protocol that has been in place for 83 years, involving placing a tag on the toe of the deceased.

Williams says she’s planning legal action.


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Suzanne Le Mignot