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Demetra Street knew something was fishy after her husband's funeral.
Her 67-year-old husband, Ivan Street, died of congestive heart failure on Jan. 9, and Demetra paid $2,500 to Wylie Funeral Homes in Baltimore for her husband's cremation and funeral.
The Washington Post reports that his funeral seemed ordinary and pleasant. Demetra sat in the front row near a framed photograph of Ivan that rested next to an urn that supposedly contained his cremated ashes.
We say “supposedly" because, after the service, when Demetra asked to receive her husband's ashes, the funeral home refused to produce them.
That's when Demetra, 52, began an investigation that recently culminated in a strange federal lawsuit against Wylie Funeral Homes. Demetra alleges that the reason why the funeral home didn't hand over her husband's ashes was because they didn't exist. And the reason they didn't exist was because his body had been buried three days earlier at Baltimore's Mount Zion Cemetery at the request of another woman who claimed to be Ivan Street's wife.
Demetra Street alleges that Wylie Funeral Homes committed some nefarious double-dipping, conducting two services for the same deceased person and pocketing money for both. She is suing the business for $8.5 million for breach of contract, negligence, fraud, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
The other woman, identified in the complaint as Renee Cook, had reportedly also gone to Wylie Funeral Homes and claimed to be Ivan Street's wife, presenting an unofficial marriage certificate from 1997.
Cook reportedly paid the funeral home for a coffin, cemetery plot, and burial. The complaint alleges that after taking Cook's money and burying Ivan, the funeral home then faked the cremation to keep Demetra's fee as well.
The lawsuit also contends that the funeral home inflicted more humiliation for Demetra by failing to remove Renee Cook's tribute to Ivan from its website. It reads: "To the memory of my beloved husband. You were my best friend. The many loving memories I have of the tie we shared will forever comfort me in your absence. … You will be sorely missed, my love."
Were Cook and Ivan Street really married? At this point, it seems unclear. Demetra Street's lawyer, Alex Coffin, told the Post that the certificate Cook gave the funeral home lacked the required seal, but that she may have believed they were married.
Wylie Funeral Homes president Brandon Wylie, meanwhile, denies any wrongdoing. He told the Baltimore Sun that "the underlying matter was handled with the utmost sensitivity toward the loved ones of the deceased."