SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — A Sacramento son was worried the crematorium returned someone else’s ashes after his mother’s death, so he called Kurtis to investigate.
For Jason McGlade, the container holding his Mother’s ashes is meaningful.READ MORE: Coroner Has Not Identified Passengers On Plane That Crashed In Truckee
“I hold it and pray. Every morning when I get up, I pray with it.” McGlade said.
But now, he’s concerned the remains he has aren’t his mom’s.
The box he got back from the crematorium shows her name, Debra Ann Schmidt Alford, on the outside, identification number 19950. But inside the box, Jason found paperwork for someone else.
“The thought of it being somebody else just horrifies me,” McGlade said.
There are many headlines telling stories of families who have received the wrong cremains. McGlade now can’t stop asking himself, whose remains these really are.
“I just want to know the truth. I just want to know if that is my mother or not.” He said.
We were curious if the answer is in the DNA.
Forensic expert Ruth Ballard from Sacramento State University says new methods are always emerging to test DNA, but at 1,800 degrees, it’s highly likely DNA is destroyed.READ MORE: 2 People Shot At Bar In Downtown Turlock
“I think you’re probably dealing then with temperatures that break the DNA entirely,” Ballard said.
We know DNA is used to identify victims of wildfires, but typically experts can find usable tissue or teeth that have not been destroyed.
“It’s different when the bodies have been cremated because it’s been raised to such a high temperature,” Ballard said.
That’s why metal identification tags are so important. They go into the cremation chamber with the body and stay with the remains.
McGlade did find a tag within his mother’s ashes. The identification number matches his mom’s.
The director of Evergreen Memorial in Sacramento apologizes saying his staffer made a mistake with the paperwork but says based on the tag, he’s “One hundred percent certain the ashes belong to his Mom”.
McGlade is still haunted by the mistaken paperwork.
“I can’t just accept it and be like, ok this is her. That’s not me,” he said.MORE NEWS: Former US Sen. Barbara Boxer Robbed In Oakland
For families who want to make sure you are getting your loved one back, you can request a witness cremation where you see that tag and identify your loved one before they go into the chamber. A witness cremation does often come with an extra cost.