INVESTIGATES: Parents want answers after their sons’ bodies were misidentified, switched after death

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Two families are looking for answers, or at least accountability, from the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office and the Duval County Medical Examiner’s Office.

Back in April last year, 22-year-old Davis Brady and 36-year-old Kyle Betts died together from an accidental overdose.

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However, the mistake that occurred after their deaths led to more devastation.

The two bodies were misidentified and switched, causing one to be accidentally cremated and the other embalmed.

Kyle Betts’ mother Sandy Betts still remembers the devastating phone call she got last April.

“When the detective called, all he could tell us was that it was Kyle and another young man that both passed,” Betts said.

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Her son Kyle had died of an accidental overdose alongside his friend Davis Brady.

Within days, Betts made arrangements to cremate Kyle and held a memorial service for him.

She had just returned home to Georgia when she received a Facebook message that turned her world upside down – again.

“It was a very distraught message. ‘Your son is here.’ And she’s in Texas,” Betts said.

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The message was from Davis’ mother.

“She said he’s been embalmed. He was embalmed and is in a casket she had planned for her son. Can you imagine this poor mom?” Betts said.

All while Betts was back home, the Brady family was at their funeral home in Waco, Texas, preparing to see what they thought was their son Davis.

“The body they rolled in, I said that is not my son. Hair color is not right, the beard color wasn’t right,” Davis Brady’s father Stephen Brady said.

The Brady family was expecting to say goodbye to their beloved son but who they found was a stranger.

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It was Kyle Betts.

“I said what a mess-up this is,” Brady said.

In that Facebook conversation, Davis’ mom then tells Betts she doesn’t know where Davis is.

“I contacted our funeral home right away and said please tell me Kyle hasn’t been cremated yet. Cremated today of all the timing. He’d just been cremated when she had reached out to me,” Betts said.

“Davis was ID’d as Kyle and Kyle got ID’d as Davis. So I knew what had happened at that point, I could feel it,” Brady said.

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Struck by grief once again, both families were tasked with getting their respective sons in the right place, and getting answers from those they trusted with their loved ones.

“I questioned it and they told me all these things that in the end are discovered were wrong,” Betts said.

Action News Jax asked her if she was ever personally asked to ID her son Kyle.

“That is the most frustrating part. They did not tell me how they ID’d them. They did not ask for anyone to come ID,” Betts said.

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The same answer comes from Brady, who said a friend of both Davis and Kyle supposedly ID’d the bodies.

Both families said no official ever reached out to them for identification.

“I asked the detective, ‘can you tell me what Kyle had on his person?’” Betts said.

Through a public records request, Action News Jax obtained several reports from JSO and the Medical Examiner’s Office.

In a medical examiner’s log-in receipt, Kyle Betts is signed in with only a shirt, shorts and underwear.

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Betts said she knew that wasn’t right.

“And I’m like, we’re missing a Jaguar hat,” Betts said.

Davis Brady’s receipt is the one signed in with the hat, as well as socks and shoes.

Since the Brady family ultimately received Kyle’s body, the transfer receipt from the Medical Examiner’s Office to the funeral homes is inaccurate in the end. Each transfer receipt mirrors the log-in receipt.

“They had them switched right away from the very beginning,” Betts said.

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According to JSO policy, personal property on a body is inventoried by the medical examiner’s staff at the scene and in the presence of the investigating officer.

The policy reads:

“When the death is a Medical Examiner’s case, personal property on the body of the deceased will be inventoried by the Medical Examiner’s staff at the scene and in the presence of the investigating officer. The officer shall list the property in the Incident Report. The officer shall complete a Form P-0214 (Signature) and have the Medical Examiner’s staff member sign for the property.”

“They didn’t look anything alike either one of these two young men,” Betts said.

Action News Jax reached out to the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office for comment on the identification.

They denied the request.

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However, JSO pointed to the Medical Examiner’s Office who they said is “responsible for the identification and release of bodies.”

The Medical Examiner’s Office also declined to comment, citing “potential litigation.”

More documents Action News Jax uncovered show further confusion.

Between the log-in receipt and the autopsy, Kyle and Davis’ patient ID numbers switch.

The actual autopsy report is correct.

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At some point, the patient ID got switched again when the bodies are transferred to their funeral homes.

“I have no clue, but someone mixed it up,” Brady said.

The mistake became plainly clear when the Medical Examiner’s Office scratched out and switched the two names on the toxicology reports months later.

With no answers from either agency, Action News Jax reached out to former Miami-Dade homicide detective Pat Diaz, with more than 30 years in law enforcement.

He said it comes down to a series of missteps.

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“It all starts from the beginning. If it’s mis-marked at the beginning. But it should have been picked up at the medical examiner’s office. At the end, that’s their responsibility to make sure they’re doing the autopsy on the right person,” Diaz said.

According to the Medical Examiner’s Office identification policy, all decedents must be positively identified before being released for final disposition.

“The morgue supervisor should have realized body B is body A and body A is body B. At that point, they have to take responsibility,” Diaz said.

Both families said if that had been the case, they wouldn’t be here.

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“You need to make the ID of the deceased body. Don’t count on other people because they can screw it up,” Brady said.

“This should never ever happen to any other family ever,” Betts said.

Brady said the family may now have Davis’ ashes, but the agencies took away the family’s and Davis’ wishes; as Mormons, embalming is the preferred practice for funerals.

“I’ll never be able to bury my son’s body. We planned on putting him next to his grandfather,” Brady said.

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