News

Death and Laxness

Page 3 of 4

Harvey says the family appeared worried when he was loading the cardboard box into the hearse.

"The family was concerned about the earlier mix-up," Harvey says.
But, he says, he reassured the family that the box held Gurrola, noting that the other body was in a casket.

"One was in the casket, one was in a box. You can't mix that up," Harvey says.

Harvey says once the hearse left for the airport, the family began talking about a full service. The hearse was already late for the airport because the viewing had gone longer than expected, Harvey says.

"I called up and talked to my driver. He said we were too late for the airport. I was talking to the family, and we decided let's bring the body back here, and at that point they purchased a casket."

Harvey says the body returned to the funeral chapel by 10:45 a.m.--on Thursday, May 20.

He says he put Gurrola's body in the newly purchased casket, and the family gathered a few minutes later for a two-hour viewing.

"Since they had already paid for a viewing, and it was only under a sheet, I didn't charge them anything else," Harvey says.

Harvey says a priest officiated the service that ended sometime in the early afternoon on May 20.

Then, Harvey says, the family began pressing for an immediate flight to Mexico, or they would take legal action. Harvey says he told the family that since the service had just ended, and it was early afternoon, it would be impossible to make the flight that day. The body needed to be at the airport by 10 a.m., he says he told them, in order to be in Tucson by 2 p.m. to catch a flight to Mexico.

"They said, 'Can we drive him?' I said sure. All these papers have to stay with the body," Harvey says.

The family, Harvey says, was given the proper documents to transport Gurrola's body to Mexico.

"They took the body, and that was it," Harvey says.

A review of documentation and a series of interviews by New Times reveals numerous discrepancies in Harvey's depiction of events and raises questions of whether Gurrola's body was properly cared for by the funeral chapel.

According to documents signed by a secretary at the Harvey Funeral Chapel, Gurrola's body was embalmed on May 16, the same day as his death. Funeral records show, however, that Gurrola's brother, Jose, did not authorize embalming until the next day, May 17.

Harvey wouldn't go into much detail about the preparation of the body, saying it was a private matter.

The embalming process should have removed blood from Gurrola's body and given the funeral home plenty of opportunity to clean the body up before it was first presented to the family--on May 19 according to Ramirez, and May 20 according to Harvey.

Both Ramirez and Harvey agree the body had blood on it when it was shown to the sister and family members, raising the possibility that the body had not yet been embalmed.

Other records show that the family contracted for funeral services on May 17 and paid for them on May 19. The family also appears to have agreed to purchase a casket at about the same time. The $1,856 receipt for the casket is not dated, but the receipt number comes before the receipt for funeral services.

The receipts support Ramirez's version that the funeral events began on May 19, rather than Harvey's assertion of May 20.

Harvey's claim that Gurrola's body arrived too late at the airport on May 20 to be transported to Mexico is contradicted by an airline official.

An official at Sun Devil Enterprises, which handles the shipment of human remains to Mexico for AeroMexico, says all flights originate at Sky Harbor Airport, not in Tucson, as Harvey claims.

The cargo manager of Sun Devil Enterprises, who wanted to be identified only as Ray, says he received a call from Harvey Funeral Home on the afternoon of Wednesday, May 19, to reserve space for Gurrola's remains for the next day. The call to Sun Devil was placed hours after Harvey had already told the family, according to Ramirez, that Gurrola's body would be on the flight to Mexico that day.

Moreover, Ray says the 10 a.m. deadline is flexible. If the funeral home calls and says they are running late, the airline can make adjustments.

"If we get the heads up, we can plan accordingly," he says.
While Harvey contends that Gurrola's body was sent to Sun Devil on May 20, but got there too late and returned to the funeral chapel, Ray says Gurrola's body never arrived at Sun Devil.

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
John Dougherty
Contact: John Dougherty