Today in news you won’t know what to do with: A woman is suing Grace Funeral Chapels in East New York, saying that shortly after she hired them to take care of her mother’s funeral, they sent her an extremely explicit e-mail describing having sex with her mother’s body.
Pamela Johnson filed the lawsuit herself last month in Kings County Supreme Court. At the time, she seemingly couldn’t bring herself to describe what the e-mail said, writing only that the e-mail indicated that “my mother was disrespected and defiled.” On October 7, her attorney filed a new suit detailing the message.
According to the suit, Melinda Shaw died in May 2013. Her daughter, Johnson, hired Grace Funeral Chapels to do the wake and funeral. She gave them her e-mail address, along with that of her 14-year-old daughter, who was helping to take care of the arrangements. The viewing was scheduled for May 7, and the funeral for the following day.
On May 6, Johnson says, she received an anonymous e-mail from someone at the funeral home. It read: “Also we would like to thank you for allowing our directors to fuck the hell out of your loved one…Her pussy was nice and sweet…there is nothing like a dead piece of ass…”
Johnson says in her suit that she immediately contacted the funeral home and “was told the email came from them and they would investigate immediately.” Then she never heard from them again. As she later told the New York Post, it was too late to find another funeral home, and she was forced to have her mother’s service there as scheduled.
“I have a copy of the e-mail,” says Johnson’s attorney, Vivian Sobers. “I couldn’t believe it when she called me. I had to ask her to repeat it. I mean, it was only a couple of days before the wake. It’s absolutely horrible for them.”
Grace Funeral Chapels has two locations, the Brooklyn one and another in Florida. Along with the property management company who owns the funeral home’s building and the charitable trust that owns the company itself, Johnson names three individual funeral directors in her suit: Shawn King, Qiydaar Singh, and Nuraldii Singh, the men she says were entrusted with her mother’s burial. On Grace’s website, Nuraldii is no longer listed as an employee. The suit also names a “John Doe,” since it’s not clear who might have actually written the e-mail. Johnson’s original suit says it came from an AOL address, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last month, funeral home director King told the Post the message was “absolutely disgusting” and hadn’t come from his staff.
“Obviously, someone hacked into our system,” King added. “It didn’t come from anyone who works for me.”
Through an employee, King declined to comment, referring all questions to their attorney, Cathleen Giannetta, who did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
We contacted the New York State Department of Health’s Bureau of Funeral Directing, which ordinarily handles complaints about this sort of thing. An employee there, who asked not to be named because she wasn’t authorized to speak to media, said they hadn’t ever received a complaint about Grace Funeral Chapels.
“Why?” she asked, rather tensely. “Is there something I should know?”
We explained the lawsuit, in a general sort of way. She was silent for a moment, before adding, with noticeable relief, “I’m happy to say I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
Johnson is suing for both intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress, professional malpractice, negligent hiring, as well as violation of the “right of sepulcher,” which under state law generally means her right to choose and control the burial or cremation of a dead body. Her original lawsuit asked for at least $85,592 to cover the funeral costs; the new suit doesn’t name an amount.
The full lawsuit is below.
Note: We’ve redacted the name of Johnson’s minor daughter.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on October 10, 2013