Tallahassee mother says she never received her infant’s ashes, funeral home won’t return calls

Published: Mar. 24, 2023 at 10:03 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - A Tallahassee mother is speaking out, saying her premature son died in November 2022, and a Gainesville funeral home never gave her his ashes.

“I want justice for my baby,” said mother Deondraneshia Williams. “I don’t want anyone else to have this experience.” Williams said her son died at 26 days old after being transferred from Tallahassee Memorial Healthcare (TMH) to UF Health Shands Hospital in Gainesville.

Williams said the hospital recommended she use Forest Meadows Funeral Home for her crematory services. After signing consent forms, Williams said she called multiple times since December 2022 to check on the status of her son’s ashes, but none of her calls have been returned.

“They didn’t sympathize for what was going on with me,” said Williams. “It was like he was just another baby there - just another person who died.”

Williams told WCTV she last called Forest Meadows on March 17, and an employee told her the cremation machine was broken and would not be fixed until March 28.

Williams, then, found another mother who had similar challenges with the funeral home in 2018. Jessica Kotzen said she also felt no sense of compassion. “The situation is already hard enough, and I just feel like I hit every roadblock I could with that funeral home,” said Kotzen. “It was horrible.” Kotzen’s son died at 18 days old, and she said her family had to get their doctor to retrieve her son’s ashes from the funeral home.

WCTV reached out to Forest Meadows to get a response or clarity on why Williams’ ashes have not been given to her. We spoke with an employee over the phone, who directed us to the person overseeing infant cremation; all of our inquiries were unanswered.

As for UF Shands, we shared multiple questions about this story with the hospital, but a spokesperson told WCTV they did not have anyone available to comment.

Williams said she also had to cancel her son’s planned memorial in January, because she hadn’t received his ashes.