Los Angeles County

Mother Mistakenly Told Son Was Found Dead

She mourned her son for weeks before being told the coroner's office had made a mistake.

A man named by the coroner's office as the person whose body was found last month in a cistern at an abandoned home in the Lancaster area is in fact alive and officials have apologized to his family for the mishap, the Los Angeles County coroner's office said Friday.

The case dates back to July 2, when sheriff's homicide detectives were sent about 9:20 a.m. to the area of 220th Street East and East Avenue F.

A detective told a news photographer at the scene that a burned body was found inside a water cistern at an abandoned house. "The body was found (July 1) at about 4:30 p.m. by location film scouts," Sheriff's Homicide Bureau Detective Ray Lugo told the photographer. "They left the area at about 10:30 p.m., but did not make the call (until) some time (the following) morning at about 8:30 a.m."

Lancaster deputies confirmed the find and notified the homicide unit, Lugo said.

The Los Angeles County coroner's office identified the decedent as 26- year-old Adam Buckley, but it turned out the identification was made in error and Buckley was alive.

The coroner's office issued a statement explaining that its staff was unable to get fingerprints or bone DNA from the body because of extensive thermal damage.

On July 26, the sheriff's department contacted the coroner's office to say the body could possibly be that of a missing person - Adam Buckley.

"Less than three weeks later, our board-certified radiologist compared body X-rays known to be of Mr. Buckley with body X-rays of the decedent and, based on the information known at that time, confirmed the identification for LASD," according to a coroner's office statement.

The coroner's office notified Buckley's legal next of kin of the match, but on Tuesday, officials were informed that Buckley had been located and was alive.

"We confirmed this identification and established Mr. Buckley was in fact alive and a misidentification had been made," according to the coroner's office. "Immediately after learning this, we called the (supposed) decedent's next of kin and notified them that their loved one was still alive and apologized for our mistake."

It turns out, Buckley had been incarcerated for vagrancy and was released several days ago, his mother said.

"Additional tests are being run on the body, including DNA found in a muscle," according to the coroner's office.

The test results are pending, but officials have no leads on the decedent's identity and the cause and manner of death remains unknown.

"We would like to publicly apologize to the family of the man who was misidentified as the decedent and also express our regrets to the community we serve," according to the coroner's office statement, which went on to say identification is one of the Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner's most important functions and a responsibility the office takes "very seriously."

"As forensic tools and strategies continue to be developed, we are reevaluating our processes in identification to help keep incidents like this from happening again in the future," officials said. "These types of mistakes are unacceptable to us and run counter to our mission of looking after and protecting the decedents of Los Angeles County. We are committed to making improvements wherever they are warranted."

Anyone with information about the once again unidentified body was urged to call the Sheriff's Homicide Bureau at 323-890-5500, or Crime Stoppers at 800-222-TIPS.

Buckley's mother, meanwhile, said her son is still missing and "endangered" and may be at a homeless shelter.

"He has been diagnosed with several conditions, one of which is schizophrenia, and he needs help. He needs to be found as soon as possible," she said.

She asked anyone with information as to his whereabouts to call 805-259-9120 or 661-425-3178.

"My son is still missing and endangered, and I'm desperate to find him," she said.

NBC4's Rudy Chinchilla contributed to this story.

Copyright CNS - City News Service
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