‘They ruined everything': Houston funeral home puts wrong body in casket, family says

HOUSTON – Doctors diagnosed Natividad Torres Cordova with pancreatic cancer in May. The father, grandfather and great-grandfather spent his final two weeks at home.

“To say our last goodbyes to our father, it was supposed to be perfect,” said Susana Montelongo, daughter of Cordova. “He gave us his all, so we wanted to give him everything, perfect.”

The day of the funeral arrived at Santana Funeral Directors, and the family said the casket was late. That wasn’t too big of a deal until Maria Vasquez opened it.

“I went up to the casket to tell him, ‘I love you,’ before anybody came in, and (I) was touching the wrong person, with [my] dad’s clothes,” she said in tears. “They ruined everything.”

Photos taken at the funeral show a man who is not Cordova wearing his special Mexico soccer jersey. Videos taken at the funeral home show family members confronting Santana employees.

“It almost felt like a really mean joke,” Natividad Cordova Junior said. “I don’t even like to talk about it.”

Cordova Junior went with Santana employees to find his father’s body. Close to two hours later, the body of Natividad Torres Cordova arrived, but the family said his body was not prepared for a service.

“Instead of having good memories of a perfect funeral for our father, because he deserved the best, we are having a nightmare,” Montelongo said.

KPRC 2 reached out to the funeral director, Arnold Alanis, who declined to be interviewed. But he said, “We have always believed in serving our families.”

“Once and a while, there might be an issue with a family but we’re not at liberty to discuss that,” Alanis added. “I feel sorry for them, they’re in grief right now with loss of a loved one.”

“We strive real hard to make sure the family’s needs are met,” he said.

Vasquez said Alanis refunded the family later, but she said she had hoped that he and other employees would have shown some remorse on the day of the funeral.

“The director literally rushed out, left us there to handle everything on our own,” Vasquez said.

The family plans to file a lawsuit against the funeral home in the future, once they find an attorney.