DNA test to be done after NJ casket had wrong body
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — The daughter of a New Jersey woman whose casket contained the wrong body said Wednesday that DNA tests will be performed to determine if her mother was accidentally cremated in Canada.
Lisa Kondvar of Warwick, R.I., and her family discovered someone else’s body in Margaret Porkka’s casket last month at a New Jersey funeral home. Porkka, 82, had died unexpectedly during a trip to St. Maarten over Thanksgiving.
The family suspects Porkka’s body was confused with that of a Canadian woman who died on the island around the same time, and was sent to Canada and cremated. Scott Aldridge, a detective in Barrie, Ontario, told The Associated Press on Wednesday that the woman in Porkka’s casket has been identified as 82-year-old Kathleen Togwell. Her body is being returned to Canada.
Kondvar said bodily fluids were recovered from a casket in Canada that might have contained Porkka’s body. The family has sent her hairbrush and toothbrush for DNA testing. Results are not expected until the end of the month, Kondvar said.
“They’re just starting on it now,” she said. “It’s frustrating.”
The family wants to take possession of the ashes if they are determined to be those of Porkka. Kondvar said her father, Pete, of Englewood, N.J., is “just broken” after not being able to say a goodbye to his wife.
St. Maarten Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams said last week that the government there has formed a committee to investigate the case at the request of U.S. officials.
Emerald Funeral Home director Orlando Vanterpool said, to his knowledge, he sent the correct remains but that he will provide a refund if it’s determined a mistake was made.
Associated Press writer Rob Gillies in Toronto contributed to this report.