Frank Kerrigan Jr., 57, had been living on the streets ever since his mother died, and suffering from mental illness. So his family expected that some day they would get a call with bad news. His father Frank Kerrigan Sr.'s worst fears were realized when the Orange County coroner's office called to say his son had died. Frank Sr. asked if he needed to identify his son's body, but police told him that they had already checked Frank Jr.'s fingerprints, and compared his face to an old driver's license photo in his wallet.
With heavy hearts, Frank Jr.'s family buried him in the family plot, next to his mother - or at least someone they thought was Frank Jr.
People traveled from as far away as Canada to be at the funeral, and one person drove more than 200 miles. Frank's siblings even visited the cellphone store where "his" body was found and left some mementos.
But just 2 weeks after the funeral, Frank Sr. got a call from one of his son's pallbearers. He said he had some shocking news, then passed the phone to Frank Jr. He had been alive and well the whole time.
Now Frank Sr. is left wondering who was buried in his son's grave.
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Even before Frank Jr.'s call, there were a few small details that made his family suspicious. They received a bag from the police, who said it had belonged to Frank Jr., but it looked nothing like his. It also didn't contain some of his prized possessions - a special watch and a pin. Plus, the wallet they got back from the coroner didn't contain any I.D. - so how had the police "identified" Frank Jr.?
The family said that they were allowed to see the mystery body a few days before the funeral, and noticed he looked different.
But since Frank Jr. lived on the street, had died and been autopsied (they thought), they naturally assumed he looked a little different.
While the family is celebrating the incredible reunion with Frank Jr., they still want answers about how this crazy mix-up could happen. "It feels like a miracle that my son is actually alive, but that does not take away the pain and grief we've gone through since this ordeal began," Frank Sr. told CNN.
The family is suing the Orange County coroner's office for $2 million because of emotional distress, including for the cost of Frank Jr.'s funeral, which was more than $20,000.
Police say the body that was buried in Frank Jr's place has been identified, but they haven't released any more information.
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