Shirell Powell from New York City, New York spent more than a week sitting at her dying brother’s bedside last July, comforting him through his final days after he suffered a severe drug overdose that damaged his brain.
Eventually, Powell said goodbye to her brother, let his family members do the same, and made the choice to take him off life support so he could pass away peacefully.
But a new lawsuit filed by Powell against the St. Barnabas Hospital makes a damning accusation: the man she took off life support was not her brother, but a stranger with a similar name and appearance.
Her suit alleges that the man taken off life support was 40-year-old Freddy Clarence Williams, not her brother Frederick Williams, a man of the same age.
Powell claims that she had trouble telling the difference between the two men because of tubes obscuring the unresponsive Freddy’s face, and because of swelling caused by his brain damage.
Despite the changes - and a height difference - she says Freddy resembled her brother "so much."
As for Frederick, he was in jail on Rikers Island while Powell was sitting at Freddy’s bedside, something no one in his family realized. Frederick is still locked up while awaiting a court date later this week.
Powell is seeking damages from the hospital for the mishap. Her lawsuit, filed in Bronx Supreme Court earlier this month, also claims that no one realized the mistake until the city’s medical examiner performed an autopsy on Freddy.
"I nearly fainted because I killed somebody that I didn’t even know," Powell told The New York Post. "I gave consent. I was like, 'Where is my brother? What is going on?'"
Powell's lawsuit also lists other alleged mix-ups by hospital staff, including a call she received from the hospital after Freddy's admittance, because she was listed as her brother’s emergency contact. That’s despite the fact that Freddy allegedly had his own Social Security card on him.
A spokesman for the hospital told the Post they "don’t feel there is any merit to this claim."
Powell says the only person to notice something was amiss before the autopsy was her sister, who visited Freddy in hospice before his death.
"That is not my brother," she reportedly told Powell, before convincing herself that "Frederick’s" face was just swollen.
Two of Frederick’s teenage daughters, who came from Virginia to visit him in his final days, apparently had no idea they were kissing and crying over the wrong man either.
As for Frederick, he reportedly doesn’t hold a grudge against his sister for "pulling the plug" on him - just against the hospital for the case of mistaken identity.
"He was saying, 'You were going to kill me?'" Powell told the Post. "I explained to him, once you’re brain dead, there is nothing to do."