Better Call Behnken: Confusion over Spring Hill woman’s cremated remains causes grief for widower

SPRING HILL, Fla. (WFLA) — Charles Crouch’s wife died three years ago, and her remains were cremated. Until recently, he wasn’t ready to spread all of the ashes. Instead, he spread a small amount after she died and kept the rest in a canning jar, to remember her favorite hobby, canning.

Last month, he says he decided it was time to move toward closure. He bought a gravesite and tombstone in Iowa, where his wife, Quit Crouch, was from. But he says 30 minutes before he was set to spread the ashes with family and friends, one of his friends opened an envelope that was with the ashes. 

The outside of the envelope says, “Deceased: Quit Crouch.” But inside of the envelope was a cremation certificate for another woman. The cremation number listed for this other person is the same number on the metal tag that was attached to the bag of ashes Crouch had been given.

He panicked.

“She opened it up and said, ‘Good God, these might not be your wife’s ashes, here it says it’s not,'” Crouch said.

He canceled the proceedings and called the funeral home, Pinecrest Funeral Chapel in Spring Hill. He was assured it was just an error on the certificate and that the ashes were those of his wife.

He came home anyway.

“I couldn’t spread those ashes, I just didn’t know what to believe,” Crouch said.

This is where this story turns into a he-said, she-said, confusing tale.

Crouch insists the funeral home gave him little explanation or compassion for the grief this mistake caused. The funeral home owner, Chris Kaduk, would not go on camera but told News Channel 8 there is no question that the remains are those of Mrs. Crouch.

“This mistake has nothing to do with the identity of the ashes,” Kaduk said.

Crouch turned to 8 On Your Side for help getting answers and closure.

We went to the state Department of Financial Services, and Communications Director Ashley Carr said the department took the inquiry seriously and paid the funeral home a visit. Records were checked, and Carr said investigators believe the remains are those of Mrs. Crouch. The cremation number on the tag matches the one in funeral home records. In addition, the permit number on the certificate matches the one in state records for Mrs. Crouch’s cremation.

“This would have thrown anyone back into a state of grief, and we are concerned,” Carr said. “Do we believe, does anyone believe that this was intentional, no, but absolutely a mistake was made.”

The state investigation into this mistake continues, Carr said.

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