Washington state mom Lori Baker of Tacoma was told by the medical examiner’s office that her 24-year-old daughter, who has been missing for eight years, had been found dead, the victim of a hit and run driver.
Baker grieved for three days, even writing her daughter’s obituary, after she received the tragic news from her local chaplain.
Turns out, Baker’s daughter Samantha Rose Kennedy did not die on March 14.
“What do you do? Just go around telling family members they are dead then say, oops, my mistake?” an incredulous Baker asked rhetorically.
The Pierce County Medical Examiner's office mistakenly advised Baker that the woman they had found dead on State Route 7 in Spanaway was her daughter. When Kennedy ran away from home at age 16, Baker filed a missing person’s report, adding that her daughter had a distinctive tattoo. Somehow, those details were overlooked when the examiner’s office examined the Jane Doe’s body.
Baker said she had to wait until her daughter’s body was transferred to a funeral home before she could see her.
On Wednesday, the grieving mom went to Mt. View Funeral home in Lakewood with her sister when the body was finally released by the medical examiner.
“My sister went in with me holding my hand and we both screamed at the same time: ‘It’s not her!’” Baker told KIRO TV.
The medical examiner attempted to explain the flagrant mix-up.
According to Baker: “He said ‘I'm sorry, but there's been a mistake,’” the mom said when discussing how she was subjected to a roller coaster of emotions. “I cussed,” she said in response.
Thomas Clark, from the Pierce County Medical Examiner's office, has since publicly apologized, Baker said, though she personally rejects it.
“How can you go around telling people their kid is dead without proof?” Baker asked.
Said Dr. Clark: “I don’t think anyone did anything wrong. It was a simple misunderstanding,” Clark told the News Tribune. “The appropriate response is to adjust your policies and practices to ensure something like this does not happen again. We are reviewing the circumstances and will adjust our practices.”
Baker is comforted to know that her daughter may still be alive, though missing.
“I still don’t know where my daughter is, but at least I know she’s not the one who was killed,” Baker said. “I’m really relieved.”