Widow: Family member moved my deceased husband's body

CALDWELL, Idaho (KBOI) - Gilbert Hopkins of Caldwell passed away in 1974..

His wife, Barbara, says she burried him at a local cemetery. But in 1982, she claims another family member went through official channels and had her husband disinterred.

According to her, he was then cremated and his ashes were scattered in Oregon near his childhood home.

"It hurt a lot of people, it didn't just hurt me, it really hurt me but it hurt us as a family," Barbara Hopkins-Burres said.

A folder filled with decades old notes and copies of letters sent to elected leaders still sits in her living room. She's been on a crusade of sorts to try and change the rules of disinterment.

"I never want that to happen to anybody again," Burres said.

Idaho Department of Health and Welfare handles disinterment applications. That's where the Truth Squad turned for answers.

"I think what you have brought forward is a rarity," Tom Shanahan, spokesman for Idaho Department of Health and Welfare said.

Shanahan says the department can't comment on specific cases including Gilbert Hopkins' case. Disinterment documents are not considered public records. But, Shanahan admits mistakes can happen.

"What you do have here is a rare case, but they do occur now and then," Shanahan said.

So what are the requirements? The family member who wants to move a loved ones body works directly with a mortician who takes the lead and helps filling out the forms. He is also responsible for making sure all the information is correct.

There is also a legal hierarchy that controls who can request disinterment.

The deceased person controls what happens if it was spelled out in the will. That supercedes everything. If not, the decision then goes to the person with power of attorney. If one's not designated the surviving spouse can make the decision.

If the spouse is deceased, the surviving children can make the request to disinter.

While it's not that common, Idaho gets fewer than 40 cases per year, it does happen.

"In about 90 percent of the cases, they want to disinter a family member because they're moving. They want that family member with them when they move so they can visit the grave site. That's the vast majority (of cases)," Shanahan said.

Burres hasn't visited her husband's final resting place, she says it's up in the Oregon mountains where he grew up. While he's been gone for decades, she says she knows how he'd feel about the situation.

"He would never want this to happen again, because it caused a lot of pain to our family," Burres said.


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