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Lawsuit filed in St. Louis after funeral home sends man’s brain home with family

By Pat Pratt

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    ST. LOUIS, Missouri (KMOV) — Devastated by the loss of a beloved father and husband, Glenda Love and her children did everything they could to ensure their family member’s final wishes were honored.

When Fred Love Jr. passed away on Sept. 25, 2022, they released his body for organ donation in accordance with his wishes. They arranged the retired U.S. Army major’s service with military honors near Stockton, Missouri, where he grew up, and that it be livestreamed for those unable to attend.

Following the service, they waited to receive Fred Love’s ashes, in accordance with his desires to be cremated. Soon after, they received his remains, but what they did not know at the time was the urn holding their loved one was missing something vital.

Missing was Fred Love Jr.’s brain, which his loved ones found days later in a cardboard box, placed inside a bag of his personal effects.

In October, the Love family filed a lawsuit in St. Louis Court against The Baue Funeral Home, of St. Charles and other locations, Simpson Funeral Home Inc., of Springfield and Webb City, Mid-America Transplant Services, a nonprofit organ procurement service, and several individuals associated with those entities. They are seeking unspecified damages for negligence, fraud, interference with the right to burial and violations of the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act.

Attorneys for Glenda Love and children, Steve Coronado and Jacob Bielenberg, argue in court filings that the negligence shown by the defendants in the treatment of Fred Love is so far outside the realm of reason the petition speaks for itself.

“Because Glenda requested that Fred’s remains be cremated, the delivery of Fred’s brain to the widow in a cardboard box is so far outside the realm of reasonable care that negligence may be presumed by one or all of the Defendants in this case,” the petition reads.

In a statement to First Alert 4, the Love family said now a year later, they are still wondering how something like this could have happened. They say part of the reason for filing the litigation is to hopefully ensure it does not happen to others.

“Fred’s passing was devastating for the whole family. Fred was a loving husband, father, grandfather, and a multi-decade veteran of the U.S. Army. The acts giving rise to this lawsuit made the experience of his passing all the more difficult. Over a year after the events, we are still wondering how something so shocking could happen,” the statement reads.

“Collectively, we have never heard of this occurring to another family, and thus we are uniquely alone in seeking answers. We hope this lawsuit helps us in obtaining some accountability, and we hope it contributes to preventing something like this from ever happening again to any family.”

Attorneys for both funeral homes were asked for comment and did not respond. According to the petition, The Baue Funeral Home Director Colby Hitchcock, during a meeting with the family, admitted the grievous error, adding there was plenty of fault to go around.

“I’ll acknowledge our breakdown, but I’d say multiple systems broke down,” Hitchcock is quoted as saying. “I’m not going to bear 100% responsibility. I’ll take responsibility for our part of it.”

On Sept. 26, 2022, the day after his passing, Fred Love’s body was taken to Mid-America Transplant for organ harvesting. Mid-America that day sent Glenda Love a message the donation was complete, and the body would be transported to the St. Charles County Medical Examiner.

Following the donation, Mid-America Transplant informed the family the medical examiner had a contract with Baue Funeral Home that allows free embalming and transport to a funeral home of the family’s choosing. Glenda Love signed a release, and Baue then took possession of Fred Love Jr.’s body.

Mid-America Transplant President and CEO Kevin Lee, in a statement to First Alert 4, described what happened to the family as heartbreaking and denied the organization was at fault.

“It is heartbreaking that this family had such a traumatic experience following the death of their loved one,” Lee said. “Mid-America Transplant denies responsibility for the situation as alleged and has standard protocols that it consistently follows in coordinating the donation process while honoring the lives of the heroic individuals who say yes to organ and tissue donation.”

When Baue Funeral Home in St. Charles received the remains, the brain of Fred Love Jr. was inside a red plastic specimen bag, as he had undergone a partial autopsy, the petition reads. His body was embalmed, and his brain was embalmed and placed back in the bag.

The bag was then placed inside what the petition states was a “common cardboard box that would have been lying around the mortuary.”

In black marker, an employee wrote on the box, “Fred Love Jr., to stay with deceased, do not open.” Two red biohazard stickers were also affixed to the outside. The remains and the box were then transported to Simpson Funeral Home in Webb City, Missouri, where the service was held.

On Oct. 3, 2022, the funeral was conducted and on Oct. 6, 2022, Fred Love was cremated. After the cremation, the family was given a plastic sack containing articles of Fred’s clothing and a cardboard box. The family then began the six-hour trip from Webb City, Missouri, to Glenda Love’s home in O’Fallon, Missouri.

During that ride, the family noticed what was described as an extremely pungent chemical smell which caused one member to have a headache. After arriving in O’Fallon, another family member took the box from the bag, shook it and smelled it to determine the contents.

After retuning home, the family left the box in the garage as they believed it contained only personal effects. The following day, they noticed the same strange odor and that the box was the source. Initially, they feared lab work was left inside due to the stickers and the smell.

On Oct. 7, 2022, the Loves called Mid-America Transplant about the box. The organization agreed to send someone the next day to investigate. A courier arrived and told the family it was not a box the organization would use. While the courier was instructed to take the box, the Love family declined, wanting to know what was inside. They peeled a sticker off the box. Underneath, they discovered a graphic revealing it was a box for an American flag, the type used in funeral services.

The Loves then called Baue Funeral Home to see if the box belonged to them. After several hours with no response, they drove to the funeral home with the box to get answers. When they arrived, they were escorted into a conference room and told, “essentially you guys were given a box that contains Fred’s brain by mistake by the (Simpson) funeral home.”

Baue Funeral Home attested they sent documentation with Fred Love to Simpson Funeral Home in Webb City. However, the petition states they were unable to prove any verification. From there, all the defendants placed blame on each other, the petition reads. The funeral home offered to cremate the organ but also said it would likely be incinerated, leaving nothing to add to Fred Love’s funerary ashes.

Thus, the remains of Fred Love Jr. can never be made whole.

“Glenda Love continues to re-live the trauma of the event and has come to the realization she will likely never have all of Fred’s remains together again, as the brain itself will not result in a measurable amount of physical ashes to combine with those provided by Simpson’s Funeral Home,” the petition reads.

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