A Baltimore woman has filed an $8.5 million lawsuit against a funeral home, saying the company secretly conducted two services for her husband and collected additional payments from another woman who said she was also the wife of the deceased man.
Demetra Street said an employee at Wylie Funeral Homes took the urn of her husband, Ivan Street, and hid it away after the service ended in January, The Washington Post reported. She said the staff then refused to turn over Ivan’s ashes when Demetra made the request. According to the complaint, the ashes were not even in the urn because Ivan’s body was buried at another cemetery three days earlier at the request of the other woman claiming to be the man’s wife.
Wylie Funeral Homes is now accused of breaching its contract with Demetra and making false representations to make a profit. Demetra, now suing for $8.5 million, said the business pocketed two payments after conducting two services for herself and the other woman.
In a statement to the Baltimore Sun, Wylie Funeral Homes president, Brandon Wylie, denied the accusations.
“Due to restrictions imposed by our confidentiality requirements and the existence of pending litigation, we are not at liberty to disclose all of the information relevant to this matter,” Wylie said. “However, we vehemently deny the claims advanced by Ms. Street and assert that the underlying matter was handled with the utmost sensitivity toward the loved ones of the deceased.”
Ivan, who died from congestive heart failure on Jan. 9, was separated from Demetra and living elsewhere at the time of his death. Demetra, who was still legally recognized as Ivan’s wife, went to the funeral home on Jan. 13, identified the man’s body and provided her marriage certificate to prove she was next of kin.
The widow then said she signed a $2,500 contract for Ivan’s cremation and a memorial service with the funeral home. Another woman later came to the funeral home with a 1997 marriage license, which was missing a seal, and insisted for Ivan be buried, the lawsuit states.
After being notified about the other person identifying herself as the widow, Demetra told the funeral home to ignore the woman because she doesn’t have the authority to make changes to the funeral plans.
Demetra said her request was initially ignored.
According to the complaint, the funeral home later decided to reject the other woman’s instructions and scheduled a cremation and memorial service as Demetra requested. After the service, however, Demetra said the company ignored her “repeated requests that she receive Ivan’s ashes.”
“Defendants refused to allow her or anyone else to obtain the ashes or to see the funerary urn once the Memorial Service had concluded,” the lawsuit states.
Demetra said the funeral home brushed her off when she later found out that her husband has already been buried elsewhere.
“The Funeral Home double charged the bereaved parties by [billing] … for the cost of a casket, plot, and burial,” the complaint states.
According to The Washington Post, court records show that Ivan and Demetra were married in Baltimore in 2016 and had begun divorce proceedings in 2018. The process, however, was not completed before the man’s death.
Demetra’s lawyer, Alex Coffin, said the other woman “may have believed she was the wife, but she failed to produce a marriage certificate with a seal on it.”
The lawsuit adds that the woman left a note on Ivan’s remembrance page on Jan. 20.
“To the memory of my beloved husband,” she wrote, according to the complaint. “You were my best friend. The many loving memories I have of the [time] we shared will forever comfort me in your absence. … You will be sorely missed my love.”