Georgia family heartbroken after beloved cousin was buried by the state without their permission

A Georgia family is heartbroken after they say their loved one was buried without their consent.

Channel 2′s Ashli Lincoln spoke to a cousin of 62-year-old Willie Thomas, who died last September at Amicasa Hospice Center in Decatur.

Antwanisha Powell said her family found out about Thomas’ death via a voicemail left on a relative’s phone who was listed as next of kin. But that family member was in surgery the same day. As Powell and family members tried to locate Thomas’ body, they learned three days later that he had been buried 30 miles away at a cemetery in Palmetto, Georgia.

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“It was no compassion it seems like no one cares, it’s like oh well we buried him, sorry,” Powell said. “We never got to say our final farewell.”

Powell said the family had been planning a funeral.

“We was preparing for a funeral,” said Antwanisha Powell, but they got mixed communication from the hospice facility about where Thomas’ body was taken after he died.

Channel 2 learned that the hospice facility sent Thomas’ body to the Dekalb County Coroner’s office, who then transferred his body to a Decatur funeral home.


The funeral home director declined our request for an interview, but told Lincoln that they were contacted by the State Department of Family and Children Services, who classified Thomas’ body as abandoned after officials were not able to get in contact with his family.

“He has a whole list of contacts. He has a father that’s still alive, brothers that are still alive, cousins. That’s just the sad part,” Powell said.

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The Division of Family and Children Services sent the following statement;

The state made every effort to contact Mr. Willie Frank Thomas’ next of kin – his brother – at the time of his death; we were unable to reach him after several attempts. No other next of kin was known to the state following Mr. Thomas’ death or before his burial. When no next of kin can be found, the state moves forward with a public health funeral, where the interment is paid for by the county government. Only after the burial was complete did we hear from other family members. We contacted the funeral home about the family’s concerns to determine if there was anything that could be done to remedy the situation post-burial, but there was not. Mr. Thomas received a dignified interment, and our thoughts and prayers go out to his family during this difficult time.

Channel 2 Action News found the state does allow a 60 day window for families to claim bodies that are considered cadavers. However, in cases where bodies are classified as abandoned, there is no time frame on how soon the State can move forward with a burial.

The State says the family can either pay to have their love one’s body exhumed and buried at a cemetery of their choice, or they can pay for a gravestone to be placed at the cemetery where he is already buried.

Lincoln called and emailed officials at Amicasa, but they have not responded.