Catholic woman sues LA County coroner over cremation of slain son, ready for $445,000 settlement

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A Tijuana woman who sued the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office for cremating the remains of her slain son, in violation of her religious faith, is set to receive a $445,000 settlement.

A recommendation from the County Council Office, seeking to resolve a federal lawsuit filed by Maria Elvira Quintanilla Cebreros, was presented earlier this month to the Los Angeles County Claims Board.

“Due to the risks and uncertainties of the litigation, the county board is proposing a full and final settlement of this matter,” attorney Brian T. Chu said in the recommendation.

It was not immediately clear when the County Board of Supervisors might vote on the recommendation. The coroner’s office declined to comment.

Cebreros alleges in his 2020 lawsuit that the county failed in its mandatory duties and violated his civil rights by not informing him that his son, Jesus Fabricio Sanchez Cebreros, died in 2019 and then, without his permission, cremated his remains.

“The plaintiff is a devout Roman Catholic,” the lawsuit states. “His religious and cultural belief systems include a strong belief that the bodies of loved ones should be buried in a cemetery near family. It is against the tenets of one’s faith to cremate a loved one.

Jesus Cebreros, who lived with his mother in Tijuana, had a Visa/Border Crossing card to legally enter the United States and often visited his young son in San Diego County, according to the lawsuit.

On May 20, 2019, Jesus Cebreros informed his mother that he would be staying with a friend for a few days in the United States, the complaint states.

Then, on June 10, an off-duty Los Angeles Police Department officer noticed a black trash bag on the south side of eastbound Interstate 60 in the City of Industry. The officer stopped to investigate, noticed a foul odor coming from the bag, and called 911, the suit says.

A California Highway Patrol officer responded and noticed a decomposed hand protruding from the bag. An investigator from the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office quickly arrived and inspected the body, which was wrapped in black trash bags.

The death was determined to be a homicide due to multiple stab wounds, the prosecution says.

Cebreros alleges that Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department homicide investigators recovered various pieces of evidence from the scene, including a Mexican passport and driver’s license showing a phone number and home address in Tijuana.

On June 11, the coroner’s office identified the deceased as Jesus Cebreros and his next of kin as “Elvira Cebreros in Tijuana” and noted that she was his mother. However, an account included in the report incorrectly stated that his next of kin had not been identified, according to the complaint.

Further alleged issues emerged about two weeks later, when a deputy coroner filled out Jesus Cebreros’ death certificate, incorrectly listing his country of birth as Guatemala and his year of birth as 1959. The county cremated the remains of Jesus Cebreros on July 30, 2019.

Meanwhile, Cebreros tirelessly searched for his son in the United States.

She met with the Mexican consulate, launched a social media campaign and traveled to Los Angeles, where police told her there were no documents matching the description of her missing son, the lawsuit says .

In late August 2019, Cebreros learned from a response to his social media campaign that his son had died and was in the custody of the coroner’s office.

She met with officials from the coroner’s office, who confirmed Jesus Cebreros’s death and provided his personal effects, which included multiple ID cards showing his name, date of birth, address and phone number, according to the report. pursuit.

“The failure of the defendants to notify the plaintiff of her son’s death and to allow her to dictate the terms of her decision and final resting place was emotionally devastating,” the suit states. Due to her religious and cultural beliefs regarding cremation, the Complainant struggles daily with the idea that her son may not have reached his creator. She wonders if she will see him in the afterlife.

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