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Grieving mother said cremains tampered with en route to Salt Lake

By Amy Joi O'Donoghue  |  Posted Nov 3rd, 2011 @ 10:10pm


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AMERICAN FORK  — A grieving Utah County mother has unanswered questions to add to the trauma of dealing with her daughter's death after the cremains were somehow tampered with during the process to fly them home from Atlanta to Salt Lake City.

Nancy Kelly was ferrying her daughter Amber's cremains on a flight home Oct. 23. Amber,  who suffered from congestive heart failure and kidney disease, died suddenly while visiting her sister on an extended trip to Georgia.

Kelly said she her daughter was cremated and she flew to Atlanta to bring the cremains home for a service in Utah. When she got home, however, she opened the suitcase to find that the cremains had come out of the box.

"Someone desecrated her remains," she said. "And I'd like to know who and what they did; whether they poured some of it out."

The cremains were in a plastic bag in a box sealed by a Georgia mortuary. That box was placed inside another cardboard box, Kelly said, and both boxes had the dead woman's name on them and an indication as to what was inside, Kelly said.


Someone desecrated her remains. And I'd like to know who and what they did; whether they poured some of it out.

–Nancy Kelly


Kelly said she put the box in a suitcase and packed 2- inches worth clothing around the bottom, sides and top of the box.

At the Atlanta airport, the suitcase went through an explosives detection machine and an alarm sounded, according to TSA spokesperson Lorie Dankers. The alarm requires an inspector to remove the baggage and take it to resolution room for additional inspection.

A video of the incident was released by TSA and Dankers says it shows the federal agency did not tamper with the contents.

"It is clear from the video that the box was never opened and no attempt was made to open the box," Dankers said. "The TSA inspector carefully and respectfully returned the box to the suitcase when they discovered what it contained."

Kelly said it was clear someone had tampered with the original box containing the cremains because there were dig marks along one side and scratches on the top.

After the suitcase left the custody of TSA, Delta Airlines handled it as a piece of luggage in their cargo area on the flight back to Utah.

Kelly took the box of cremains to a Lehi mortuary, where funeral director Quinn Wing said it was pretty obvious someone had messed with the box and the plastic bag containing the cremains.

There was a 1-inch cut in a heavy-duty bag used to hold the cremains, the type of bag Wing says doesn't usually tear. He said there were also "measurable" amounts of cremains in the black encasement box.

"I don't know what happened but it should never have happened," Kelly said. "Something happened and someone violated her and I equate that to what if I had brought the body back and someone opened the container...It's the same thing to me."

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Written by Amy Joi O'Donoghue with contributions from Jennifer Stagg.

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