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Death and Laxness

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Ramirez says Harvey called someone and instructed that person to bring the body back to the funeral home. In the meantime, the family decided it wanted a formal viewing and ceremony.

"I told him we wanted to have a ceremony here," Ramirez says. "He [Harvey] says we can't."

Ramirez says Harvey told the family they would have to buy a casket for a ceremony at the funeral home. Gurrola's brother agreed to purchase a casket for $1,856.26.

"We didn't want to show him to people in a cardboard box," Ramirez says.
She says the family arranged for a two-hour service the next morning, Thursday, May 20, beginning at 8:30 a.m.

That evening, Ramirez says, she called AeroMexico to check Harvey's story and found that Harvey Funeral Chapel had never even made flight reservations for Gurrola on May 19.

In fact, Ramirez says, airline officials told her that the funeral home had not called about Gurrola until that afternoon, and then to make a reservation for a 2 p.m. flight the next day, Thursday, May 20.

So who was the body in the cardboard box that Ramirez says Harvey loaded into the hearse that morning in front of the family? By this time, Ramirez was suspicious of Harvey and tried to make arrangements with another funeral home to take over the service.

But, she says, there wasn't enough time to line up another service on such short notice. Ramirez says family and friends returned to the Harvey Funeral Chapel the next morning for the scheduled 8:30 service.

This time, Gurrola's body was clean and properly presented. A Catholic priest officiated.

Still, Ramirez says, the family was anxious about turning Gurrola back over to Harvey, who planned to take the body to the airport for the AeroMexico flight.

"How are we going to know the body was going to get on the flight?" Ramirez says. "One of the cousins asked if he [Harvey] would release the body to us so we would take him to Mexico."

Harvey agreed, and refunded the family $400 for the airfare.
The family loaded Gurrola's casket into the back of a van. Cash was raised for expenses, and the driver took off to Mexico, arriving in Gurrola's hometown near Durango 18 hours later.

Harvey's Story
Reverend Anthony Harvey's version of the events is strikingly different from Ramirez's.

For reasons that aren't clear, Harvey says the whole thing happened on the same day--Thursday, May 20--not spread over two days--May 19 and 20--as described by Ramirez.

But the Catholic priest who officiated the May 20 service, the transport company that took care of flight arrangements as well as Harvey's own records all back up Ramirez's version of events.

Still, according to Harvey, the tumultuous series of events began on the morning of Thursday, May 20.

"There were about 15 or 20 folks in my parking lot around 7:30 a.m.," Harvey explains. "I don't open until 9:30 a.m. They wanted to see the body, but there was nobody with authorization to do that."

Harvey says the brother showed up around 9 a.m.
"He asked me for a viewing," Harvey says. "I said, 'I can only let in about five people.'"

Harvey says he agreed and charged the family $200, which the brother paid. (The viewing charge does not appear on any bill, receipt or contract.)

"This was all done according to what the family was asking," he says.
But Harvey says he didn't know for sure it was Gurrola's family he was dealing with; he had the body of another young Hispanic man in his funeral home as well, also to be shipped back to Mexico.

Harvey brought out the first body in a casket.
"They said, 'That's not him.' I said, 'Who are you? Which family are you?'" Harvey says.

When he learned he was dealing with Gurrola's family, Harvey says he retrieved the proper body.

"At that point, we brought him out under a sheet," Harvey says.
Harvey says he was standing next to Gurrola's sister and saw her reaction to the blood-stained body sitting in a cardboard box rather than a formal coffin.

"It was a lot of show," Harvey says. "A lot of it is--people faint at funerals."

Harvey says he saw the sister collapse, and he let her fall.
"I don't catch anybody when they are falling," he explains. "I messed up my back. I stepped aside. I don't catch anybody."

Harvey says after the sister fainted, he took Gurrola's body back to get it dressed and ready to go to the airport. The body was to be transported in the cardboard box, called a combination box, rather than a casket because Gurrola's family in Mexico had a casket.

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John Dougherty
Contact: John Dougherty