Body held in funeral home cold storage for more than a month

Family feud blamed for stalemate

SPRING HILL, Fla. - A mother's wish to "rest in peace" is going ignored.

Instead, her remains have been sitting in cold storage for weeks.

The woman died more than a month ago, and family members say she made it perfectly clear how she wanted to be buried.

But her son and daughter claim her other son is standing in the way of that, trying to pocket all of the money from her life insurance settlement.

“It’s sad. And her body is just deteriorating,” said Karen Johnson.

Her mother, Shirley Dawson, died on June 1.

Since then, her body has been in a cold storage unit at Turner Funeral Home in Spring Hill.

“Just every day passes, it makes me more angry,” said Thomas Holmes, Dawson’s son.

Dawson’s children, Tom and Karen, are angry because they claim their brother, Bill Holmes, who lived with his mother for years and was named executor of her estate, has failed to carry out the final wishes spelled out in her will: To be buried beside her late husband 1,000 miles away in New Jersey.

“She's got a plot and a headstone up there already with her name on it, right next to my father,” said Thomas Holmes.

They say their mom bought three insurance policies worth $15,000, which would more than cover the $7,000 cost of transporting her body.

But the siblings accuse Bill Holmes of keeping the money instead of carrying out her wishes.

“He's had another breakdown, and that's why he's in bed now,” said Kenneth Lilly, Bill Holmes’ friend who answered the door at Dawson’s former apartment.

Lilly, who admits he has no home in his own name, said he is advising Bill Holmes about what to do.

“I explain things to him as it goes,” he said. “I'm his friend. I represent his intellectual rights.”

The funeral director tells us his job is to carry out the family's wishes, which are still unclear.

“There's got to be some law that steps in and says the money was for that purpose and that's what it should be used for,” said Karen Johnson.

That issue may not be resolved soon, since Lilly said Bill Holmes is emotionally incapable of carrying out his duties as executor.

The I-Team contacted the state funeral services office, which told us this is not an isolated incident.

They said they've seen cases in which people's remains have been held in storage for months.

In the meantime, the other family members said they can't afford to have their mother buried or to hire an attorney.

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