HOUSTON - Roberta Salazar died peacefully and her funeral was planned carefully, her children said. But instead of embalming Salazar's body, Grace Funeral Home burned it and, a new lawsuit claims, gave the remains to the wrong family, who buried them.
"I wanted her to be buried, you know, like she wanted to be buried," Salazar's daughter, Loyola Galvan, said through tears. "That's what I don't understand. What did my mom do to them or what did we do?"
The family is suing Grace Funeral Home for $50 million in damages and its attorneys said the story only gets worse.
"They got busted, and they didn't fess up like they claim," attorney Willie Gary said. "They knew what they had done and tried to cover it up."
The lawsuit said Grace Funeral Home notified the family in March 2017, days before the funeral, that Salazar's body had been cremated, but only after trying to convince the family that they should have a closed-casket funeral instead because the body had deteriorated.
"Grace Funeral Home deeply regrets the mistake in cremating Ms. Salazar's body," attorneys for the home said in a statement. "After it discovered what had happened, Grace Funeral Home promptly investigated, notified the family and apologized."
"Specific details were provided to assure the family that the cremated remains provided for burial were those of Ms. Salazar," the statement continued. "There were no efforts to deceive anyone about what occurred."
"Grace Funeral Home can make any statement they want, but we know the truth," attorney Troy Pradia said.
Salazar was the mother of four, a grandmother of 22, with 51 great-grandchildren and 14 great-great-grandchildren, the family said. She did not believe in cremation.
"That's what hurts us," Loyola Galvan said through tears. "Not just me, my sisters and my brother, you know, and the grandchildren."
"This good woman died two deaths -- one natural, and one by fire," Gary said. "She was burned to ashes against the wishes of the family, as well as hers."
The funeral home has 20 days to respond to the lawsuit, Gary said.
The family said they will bury Salazar's cremated remains next to her late husband.
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