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Chesterfield family grieving loss of father and says they never received his belongings

Posted at 10:04 PM, Apr 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-15 23:20:14-04

CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. -- A Chesterfield family is reeling after losing their dad to COVID-19.

Deseana Evans and her sister Ja’Nel Talley are still struggling to come to grips with their loss. The Chesterfield man died April 2nd at St. Mary’s hospital after being on a ventilator.

The sisters and their family members are heartbroken knowing their 73 year old dad died alone. They weren’t allowed in the hospital and had two brief video chats with him in the initial days, then weeks of no contact.

“It hurts because we are in this chaotic state now. Families are being separated because of this terrible virus. It’s just—final,” Evans said.

The daughters say not seeing him in the hospital before or after his death and not being allowed to view his body at the funeral home adds to their grief.

“We were told we could not view him because of COVID 19 and health department regulations prevented them from opening the body bag,” Deseana said.

The family was stunned to not even have his personal belongings returned to them. Instead, family members say Mr. Evans’ items were put inside of his body bag and sent to the funeral home.

Some items, Evans says are still unaccounted for. The daughters tell us funeral home officials did receive a few of his times, but some were not salvageable. They were given an inventory list of items by the funeral home. That list was provided to Affinity Funeral Service by St. Mary’s Hospital. Notably absent from the list were the necklace and a piece of medical equipment the sisters say their dad had with him when he was admitted to St. Mary’s Hospital.

“To be missing his cell phone with all the photos he took and to be missing his necklace which he promised his grandson. To have his things just put in a body bag with him... you don’t handle people that way. We have no closure,” Talley said.

Family members want his belongings back including that necklace and that medical device the daughters say he had with him.

“There was an infusion pump he went into the hospital with. We also don’t have that. That’s a five thousand dollar piece of equipment that the hospital is saying we don’t know where these things are. The hospital told us as far as the items, the clothes, the jewelry... they’re not liable for it,” both sisters explained.

The two explained that they aren’t even able to settle their dad’s affairs with his cell phone carrier. They said they tried to cut off his phone, which he was still paying for and found out they can’t do that without turning his phone back in.

Evans says that’s impossible to do. She’s under the impression her dad’s phone --which she was told wasn’t salvageable, was cremated with him. The sisters say they also have to turn in the infusion pump their dad had, but they haven’t seen it since he checked into the hospital with it.

The owner of Affinity funeral service says his company sought direction from a state health director who advised him not to dress or allow the viewing of any un-embalmed person who tested positive for COVID-19. It’s a safety directive he says they share with families.

Thomas Evans’ loved ones now struggle with how abruptly their lives changed and struggle to figure out how to go on without the rock of their family. A man they say was devoted to his wife, family, his church-- and loved by many.

CBS 6 Problem Solvers checked in with the state and national associations for funeral directors. Officials say funeral homes across the country are advised to follow CDC guidelines.

The CDC indicates there is currently no known risk associated with viewing the body of a COVID-19 victim. However, funeral homes, at their own discretion may exercise their right to amend their viewing policies. That’s something families should consider when choosing a funeral home.

CBS 6 Problem Solvers reached out to St. Mary’s Hospital to find out what is supposed to happen when a patient passes away. A Bon Secours spokesperson issued a statement about their commitment to compassionate care for all of their patients and families.

With regards to this case specifically, the spokesperson said “To protect patient privacy, and to support the families of the deceased, we do not release information about patient deaths.”