Michael Nattoo – Staff Reporter
- DNA to determine ownership of body
On December 18, 2017, as he stood at the gate to his house, 28-year-old Recoy ‘Bigga’ Smith was hit in the back by a stray bullet, which pierced right through his heart, killing the father of a 3-year-old son on the spot. Now, almost three months later, amidst their daily explanations to his son that daddy won’t ever be coming back home, Smith’s relatives have to face the possibility of not properly burying their loved one, as another family has claimed his body to be theirs, further delaying his funeral, which would have been on the 25th of this month.
Joan Lawrence, mother of the deceased, in an impassioned and emotional interview with the Western Mirror, begged to have her son’s body turned over to her so she could bury him on the designated date. “I have already suffered enough, so why, why do I have to wait this long for someone else to prove that he is my son? I have shown them everything! But still they are asking that I do a DNA test to prove that he is my son.”
Ms. Lawrence is referring to recent instructions given to her by heads in the JCF, that because another family had claimed Recoy’s body to be theirs, she would have to provide DNA evidence to legally lay claim to the body, despite the other family later coming forward to confess that they had made a mistake in their judgment, and had in fact found their deceased.
“I have all my son’s particulars – his clean police record, his birth certificate, pictures, everything, so I really don’t understand. The other family, who we met with, said they were wrong, and they made a mistake. They found their deceased relative, so I don’t get why they can’t let me have my son.”
WHERE THE CONFUSION BEGAN
When Recoy Smith was killed last year, Lawrence explained that she was called to the Cornwall Regional Hospital, where she was required to identify his body. After spending hours at the hospital and going through that most taxing ordeal, she returned to her home in Salt Spring, where she found the Investigating Officer waiting on her. “They were processing the crime scene, so he came to me,” Lawrence revealed, “and was asking me questions. I explained that I was his mother, and I gave him everything that he asked for.” Lawrence further explained that following her conversation with the officer, she was made aware that her son’s body had been transported to the Doyley’s Funeral Home, where it would have been kept, pending an autopsy.
Last week, however, when Lawrence, along with other family members, went to check on Recoy’s body at Doyley’s Funeral Home, the Investigating Officer revealed some startling news. “When I went there, I saw him, and he mentioned that he was going to check on something,” the sobbing Lawrence related to the Western Mirror newsroom. “He went inside and after a while of not coming out, I asked to speak to him.”
It was then, after requesting to speak to the officer, that she was told that they could not find her son’s body. “I started to curse and broke down in tears, because I couldn’t understand what they were telling me,” Lawrence said, “wah dem mean dem couldn’t find mi son body?”
Certain checks were made, according to Lawrence, which revealed that Doyley’s Funeral Home instead had an unidentified body, and that another corpse, which was claimed by another family, was transported to the Delapenha Funeral Home, where plans were well underway for its burial to be had, which would have been on the 4th of March, this past Sunday.
“I called my brother and asked him to go to the Delapenha Funeral Home to check to see if the body they had was his nephew, I wanted to know if it was Recoy,” the distraught mother explained. Within minutes, she added, her brother called back to confirm that the body at Delapenha’s was in fact Recoy’s, further evidenced by a tattoo of Recoy’s name, which was on his shoulder. Lawrence also learnt that her son’s body had been cut three weeks prior to her knowing, and without her consent. She also learnt of the plans that were set to have it buried.
Fortunately, that crisis was averted for Lawrence and her family, who had met with the others who mistakenly claimed Smith as their own. The erring family confessed their misjudgment, and explained that the unidentified body at Doyley’s was in fact their own, and that it seemed to be a case of mistaken identity among the dead.
Bothering Lawrence and family now, however, is the reality that although that confession was done in the presence of the investigating officer, they still cannot get access to their relatives’ bodies for burial, as both families are now being required to do a DNA test to legally claim their dead.
“After all of that, how does this make any sense?” Lawrence said, questioning the relevance of the DNA test.
The Western Mirror subsequently reached out to members of the Crime Scene Investigation Unit of the JCF, on condition of anonymity, who explained why a DNA test in this instance would be relevant. “It usually isn’t relevant, but this case is different. Because of the confusion that happened initially, it is now prudent for all parties involved to have irrefutable evidence to their claims, to prevent any future mishap of that kind.”
In clearing their name in the confusion, an Office Manager at Doyley’s Funeral Home, Ms. Chery Foster, explained that it was not within their responsibilities to identify the body at the initial stage, but that of the police. According to Foster, “As far as our responsibilities range from identification stage to the storage of the body, we did exactly as we were supposed to do.”
Now, as family and friends of Recoy Smith in the United States, who have already booked their tickets, prepare for his funeral on the 25th, his mother and other relatives know that it may not be possible to put him to rest any time soon.