In most states, families have the right to take care of their dead leading up to final disposition: burial or cremation. One family discovered a danger of DIY funerals – a body stolen during DIY body shipment.
As reported in today’s Albuquerque Journal, a family in process of transporting a relative’s body had their Chevy Trailblazer and the U-Haul it was towing stolen from the Residence Inn where they were staying. The family was transporting a woman’s father from Oklahoma to be buried in Kirtland, NM.
It is legal for a family to transport a body across the country with a Burial Transit Permit. Usually the funeral home handles this paperwork, but families in most states can do it themselves. If the body has not been embalmed, some sort of refrigeration is highly recommended to delay decomposition. Cool packs or dry ice inside the container with the body can do the job.
States that currently require the involvement of a funeral home are Alabama, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Michigan, Nebraska, New Jersey, and New York. In all other states, a family, community or religious group can handle a death without a funeral director. This involves preparing the body, acquiring the necessary paperwork, holding a service, and transporting the body to the burial site or crematory.
The SUV and the trailer, with the body still inside, were found a few hours after the theft was reported to police. The vehicle had been abandoned just a few blocks from the hotel where it was stolen. The thieves were no doubt surprised when they opened the cardboard box in the trailer!
Auto theft is a big issue in Albuquerque. It’s made much worse when cremated remains, or even a whole body, get stolen in the process.