New Mexico Man’s Body Mutilated to Fit in Coffin, Lawsuit Charges

May 12, 2020

A New Mexico funeral home broke the legs of the body of a tall man so he could fit into a smaller coffin, a new lawsuit said.

The family of Dakota Powell filed last week a lawsuit in state district court against French Funerals and Cremations for allegedly mutilating his corpse and ignoring family instructions for a Jewish burial, the Albuquerque Journal reports.

According to the lawsuit, the 26-year-old Dakota was 6.3 feet tall, but mourners immediately noticed that the coffin was not even 6 feet long during services at French’s chapel in August 2017.

The lawsuit, filed by Dakota’s father and grandmother, also says the funeral home didn’t honor the family’s wishes and prepared the body for public viewing. Marc Powell had made arrangements to have his son’s body wrapped in linen and not embalmed or prepared for public viewing, per traditional Jewish custom. The body was to be placed in a simple pine coffin, the lawsuit said.

Funeral home president Tom Antram says an investigation conducted by the funeral home’s insurance company found no wrongdoing.

“Defendant Antram and (an employee) met the family members and other mourners at the entrance to the chapel, and as the group approached the pine coffin at the front of the chapel, family members began to become emotional and exclaim that there must be some mistake as the coffin was much too short to contain Dakota Powell,” the lawsuit says.

“To the horror of Marc and Sally Powell (Dakota’s grandmother), and the other family members and mourners assembled, (a funeral home employee) callously stated that they had to disfigure and mutilate Dakota Powell’s body by ‘breaking his legs’ so he would fit in the coffin,” the lawsuit says. The employee “even made a breaking gesture with her hands as she made this callous statement.”

The family is seeking an unspecified amount in compensatory and punitive damages.

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