Authorities mistakenly released the body of an adult woman to the family of a 2-year-old fire victim, and the woman's body was buried in the girl's grave, officials said.
A routine office check at the state Medical Examiner's Office earlier this week showed that the body of Victoria Hope Starcher of Cottageville was still there. The child and her brother, 4-year-old Joseph Allen Starcher II, were killed Feb. 8 when their two-story house caught fire.
Funeral services for the children were held Feb. 15 in Jackson County, said John Law, spokesman for the state Department of Health and Human Resources.
Law said the employee who mistakenly released the woman's body probably failed to check a label on the body bag against information identifying the remains. The woman, who has not been identified, also was a fire victim who was killed in a different incident.
Officials are investigating and disciplinary action could be taken if any wrongdoing is found, Law said.
Dr. James Kaplan, the state's chief medical examiner, and state Bureau of Public Health acting chief Ron Forren informed the girl's parents, Joseph Starcher and Tammy Scarberry, of the mistake Tuesday.
"I understand that they were extremely upset as can be expected, but they were also very impressed that Dr. Kaplan took the time to personally drive to Jackson County and explain to them what happened," Law said Wednesday. "They assured the family that DHHR would assume all the cost of exhuming the body, getting the right body to them and doing whatever we have to do to make it right."
There were no telephone listings for Starcher or Scarberry in the Cottageville area.
Law said the woman's body will be exhumed after a circuit judge issues an order, which is required for exhumations.