Funeral flub- 'Dead man' turns up in jail

Sunday, January 11, 2004

NEW ORLEANS - When mourners showed up in north Alabama for Finley Christopher Farley's funeral, they were told that the dearly departed had not departed. He was just being detained in a New Orleans jail cell.

Farley's parents, Eugene and Marion, made funeral arrangements in Decatur, Ala., for their son after the Orleans Parish coroner told them their son had died in a hotel room. A death notice was put in their local newspaper and a service was set for Thursday.

But as the death notice rolled off the presses, Farley was sitting in jail after being booked on charges of crack cocaine possession and public drunkenness. New Orleans police had arrested Farley early Monday in the French Quarter, authorities said.

Exactly how his name got connected with another man's corpse remains a mystery, as does the identity of the dead man.

A manager for the New Orleans funeral home that handled the body said it came tagged with Farley's name from the Orleans Parish coroner.

John Gagliano, chief coroner's investigator, said the office would have no comment.

Farley's parents could not be reached, but a lawyer they have consulted described them as quite shaken by the whole affair.

"I'm not sure at this point who is at fault, but there are multiple entities in Louisiana that bear some blame," said attorney Brian Oakes.

From the New Orleans funeral home's perspective, it could have been worse.

"Fortunately, we just picked him up and shipped him out. Thank God we didn't cremate him," said Billy Henry, general manager for Tharp-Sontheimer funeral home.

For Parkway Funeral Home in Trinity, Ala., the situation was slightly more complicated.

"It's been a big mess here," funeral director Michael Coffee said. "We had people showing up for the visitation and then the funeral today, and we had to tell them the guy's still alive." Farley's arrest sparked the chain of events that finally confirmed to his grieving parents that he was still alive. On Tuesday morning, the day after he was booked, a defense lawyer trawling for clients picked up Farley's name from a list at the jail, and mailed him a letter offering to represent him, Coffee said.

His parents got the letter Wednesday and called the lawyer, who told them their son was alive and in jail.

Coffee said the coroner's office told him the dead man was discovered with Farley's identification in a hotel room rented by Farley. The office did not say how the man died, Coffee said.

Coffee said he did not intend to bill Farley's parents for the funeral.

"It's not their fault," he said.

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