Relatives of a woman whose remains wound up at the Brooklyn funeral home that piled up decomposing bodies in moving trucks are preparing to file suit over the shocking turn of events, their lawyer said Tuesday.
The daughter and granddaughter of Angela Rodriguez allege that her body was entrusted to another funeral home and had no idea it was handed off to Andrew T. Cleckley Funeral Services, lawyer Kathryn Barnett said.
So, Barnett said, Rodriguez’s kin were “horrified” when the city medical examiner’s office called on Thursday and said her body was among the scores found when cops responded to reports of foul odors and liquids coming from U-Haul trucks parked outside Cleckley’s storefront business last month.
“They had heard the news about these unthinkable findings and thought, ‘Thank heaven we didn’t use that funeral home,’” Barnett said.
The ghastly discovery of bodies stashed inside the trucks — and more lying on the floor of the Cleckley funeral home in Flatlands — led the state Department of Health to shut down the operation over its “appalling” conduct amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“Angela Rodriguez was a grandmother. She was a mother. She was much loved,” Barnett said.
“Her family tried to do the best for her, and she was stacked up like a piece of trash.”
Rodriguez, 77, died of an undisclosed cause on March 24 — two days after Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s ban on all “non-essential” gatherings went into effect — and her family hired DeKalb Funeral Services in Bed-Stuy to handle her cremation, Barnett said.
It’s unclear how her body wound up at Cleckley, she said.
Funeral director Andrew Cleckley has told The New York Times that five other funeral homes also used his space, which led to bodies “coming out of our ears” as the city’s death toll from COVID-19 mounted.
Cleckley also claimed that a shortage of refrigerated trucks left him unable to purchase one and that he rented the U-Haul trucks in desperation once his chapel was filled with more than 100 corpses.
Barnett said a suit seeking unspecified damages from both Cleckley and DeKalb on grounds including the mishandling of remains, deceptive trade practices and infliction of emotional distress been drafted and will be filed once a coronavirus-related moratorium on new litigation is lifted.
The suit will be filed in Supreme Court in the Bronx because that’s where daughter Marcella Rodriguez lives, Barnett said.
Namesake granddaughter Angela Rodriguez lives in Brooklyn.
Rodriguez’s body — which has been transferred to another funeral home to be handled “appropriately, lawfully, respectfully and with dignity” — was not among those stored in the moving trucks, Barnett said.
Cleckley’s phone isn’t in service, and the company didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment.
A man who answered the phone at DeKalb declined to comment.