Ohio family claims wrong woman was in loved one’s casket

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The family of an Ohio woman who died earlier this month claims the casket for their loved one contained the body of another woman.

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Sonya Jean White, 51, died on Jan. 6, according to her obituary at Marlan J. Gary Funeral Home in Columbus.

White’s cousin, Lisa Harden, said she went with the woman’s daughters and other family members to a special viewing on Monday, WSYX-TV reported. What they discovered shocked and angered them, the television station reported.

“When we walked in there it was a different body in her casket. With her clothes on. Her undergarments. Her Buckeye earrings. And her wig,” Harden told WSYX. “We were very devastated. We were all crying. We were very upset because we already were having a hard time. To go in to view her body and then when we walked in, it was a whole other body.

“It was traumatic. No one should have to go through that with their loved one.”

White was born in Columbus and attended Mifflin High School in 1988, according to her obituary. She also attended Columbus State Community College and earned an associate’s degree. She later worked for 20 years as a machine operator for Pactiv, the obituary stated.

White’s sister, Kisha Givens, said the family chose a scarlet casket since she was an avid Ohio State University fan, WSYX reported.

“Everything we picked for my sister we picked with love,” Givens told the television station. “Exactly what we thought she would have liked.”

White’s daughter, Kourtney White, said her mother died unexpectedly.

“It’s already an awful experience,” Kourtney White told WSYX. “And then for that to happen just makes it worse.”

Representatives from the funeral home did not respond to the television station’s request for comment. Sonya White’s family said the owner of the funeral home apologized for the mixup and agreed to pay the expenses for the woman’s funeral.

Marlan J. Gary, 52, is a licensed funeral director and embalmer with more than 25 years of experience, according to the Mansfield News-Journal. After serving in the military, he moved to Middletown and worked for Hall & Jordan Funeral Homes in the greater Cincinnati area, the newspaper reported.

A graduate of the Cincinnati College of Mortuary Science, Gary moved to Columbus to work with his uncle at a funeral home in the city, the News-Journal reported.

According to Ohio licensing records, Marlan J. Gary Funeral Home in Columbus has an active business license that was renewed on Jan. 1, 2021. It comes up for renewal on Dec. 31, 2022.

Sonya White’s family said they are sorry for the family of the other woman who was in their mother’s casket. They plan to file a complaint with the State of Ohio Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors, WSYX reported.

“You expect your loved one when they pass to be handled with care,” Givens told the television station. “And to be that careless with someone’s family member is inexcusable.”