BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — For one local son, a funeral which took a wrong turn was hardly a fitting farewell to his father.
Joe Brown of South Buffalo was carrying the casket with his father’s remains to the steps of the church after his funeral Wednesday morning, when the funeral director stopped the pallbearers in their tracks, and notified them that the hearse was gone.
“It’s disgusting,” said Brown, who can’t believe that the last memory he’ll have of his father’s farewell is one of disrespect.
The family had to wait an extra 30 minutes at the church for another hearse to arrive. The Cadillac hearse was rented out by Mertz & Sons Funeral Home on Englewood Avenue in the Town of Tonawanda. Funeral Director, James Mertz said he was appalled at the theft.
“We are deeply saddened that while serving the Brown family, a crime was committed beyond our control,” he said.
The hearse was stolen late Wednesday morning from Washington Street, while a funeral was taking place inside St. Michael’s Roman Catholic Church, so the remains of Brown’s father was inside the church.
Police in North Tonawanda recovered the vehicle roughly two hours later on Frederika Street. Buffalo Police say they arrested 28-year-old Michael Healing in connection with the theft. Healing is a Niagara Falls native.
Healing stands charged with criminal possession of stolen property and unauthorized use of a vehicle.
Folks passing by the church on Wednesday evening couldn’t believe what they heard about this story.
“It’s just very unappreciated and disrespectful to the people that are experiencing the loss,” said Caitlyn McCoy, who’s visiting Buffalo from Indianapolis.
“It’s more baffling than anything else,” said Jonathan Bullis “Why would someone want to take a hearse, something you would assume that if you found on Craigslist or Ebay? It’s pretty readily identifiable.”
The stolen hearse is now impounded by Buffalo Police for evidence.