Imperial Beach

Imperial Beach Family Seeks Remains of Loved One, Fears Mix Up

Avelardo Rivera had been missing since Dec. 7 and was found deceased in Tijuana now, his family can't find his body

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The family of Avelardo Rivera fears his remains may have been given to another family. They blame workers at a morgue in Tijuana, Mexico for what they say may have been a mistake.

Rivera's son, Abel Rivera, began to worry on Dec. 25 when he had not heard from his father for over three weeks.

Two days later, he reported his father missing to San Diego Police as well as the U.S. Consulate in Mexico since his father often visited Tijuana. That day, the consulate notified Abel his father had been found deceased in his vehicle on Dec. 7 after dying from a pancreatic embolism, a condition he had been treating.

There was no wallet, no identification, so the family had not been notified.

The family went to the morgue in Tijuana where they say they were shown the body of a man who was not Rivera. They were then told Rivera may have been buried in a common grave since no one claimed him.

"That devastated the kids, just devastated them," said Sheilah Young, Rivera's ex-wife and mother of their five children.

Not taking that for an answer, the family went to the place where Rivera had been found in his vehicle and met a man who had taken a cell phone picture of Rivera when he was found dead.

They took that photo to the morgue and explained they were looking for the remains of the man in the photo. They were told to come back and when they did, it happened again.

So there they go again, they showed us the exact same man.

Sheilah Young

The family then took the picture to hospitals and someone recognized the man and said he had been dead when he got to the hospital and his body was sent to the morgue.

This time, the family got a body bag number.

"With that number, they went back to the morgue," said Young. "An asked, 'Where is this body?' So, they finally fessed up there was an error."

Young said she believes someone mistagged the two body bags, which explains why the Rivera family was shown the same man over and over again.

"The steps that were the worst was having to tell my kids that they may never see their dad again. It was horrifying just to know they had sent him to another family," Young said.

Young has reached out to the Mayor of Imperial Beach for help. She is also planning to reach out to U.S. Congressman Juan Vargas.

"It becomes overwhelming when you have five kids calling you wanting to know what else they can do. They want their father back, he's not at rest, his soul is not at rest. He is buried somewhere under another name," Young said.

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