SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) - A Southern California man who thought his son had died has learned he buried the wrong man.
Eighty-two-year-old Frank J. Kerrigan of Wildomar says the Orange County coroner's office mistakenly identified a body found dead behind a Verizon store on May 6 as that of his son.
Kerrigan says he was told fingerprints were used to ID 57-year-old Frank M. Kerrigan, who is mentally ill and had been homeless.
Frank's sister, 56-year-old Carole Meikle, said her brother chose to return to living on the street and doesn't understand how hard the mistake was on his family.
"We lived through our worst fear," she said. "He was dead on the sidewalk. We buried him. Those feelings don't go away."
Kerrigan's lawyer tells the Orange County Register it appears authorities weren't able to match fingerprints from the corpse before concluding it was Kerrigan's son.
A $20,000 funeral and burial were held.
Eleven days later, Kerrigan's friend called to say his son was alive. Kerrigan says his son got on the phone and told him: "Hi Dad."
Sheriff's Lt. Lane Lagaret, a spokesman for the coroner's office, said in a statement Saturday that the department extends regrets to the Kerrigan family "for any emotional stress caused as a result of this unfortunate incident."
Meikle said the mistaken death identification led the federal government to stop disability payments for her brother and that the family is working to restore them.
A coroner's spokesman says the case is under investigation.