When Carlita Ransom held a funeral for her mother in February 2017, she thought she was burying all of the skeletal remains that belonged to her mom - a woman who went missing in 1975 and was originally buried in a pauper's grave as a Jane Doe.
Darlene McKenzie was murdered by strangulation, and in 2016 her body was exhumed for DNA testing and she came back as a match to Carlita, who spent years wondering where her mother was and why she never came back home.
Carlita said when her mother was given a proper funeral in 2017, she had her skeletal remains buried "with dignity and pride." She included clothing, shoes, flowers, and a service.
No one at the medical examiner's office told her that some of her mother's remains were not included until over a month after she'd been buried, Carlita said.
She said she found out when she got a phone call from the funeral home.
An investigator from the Oakland County Medical Examiner's Office showed up with a box labeled "Long bones from DNA lab" along with a piece of paper with her mother's name on it.
Someone at the funeral home immediately called Carlita to put the investigator on the phone with her.
"What am I supposed to do? She's been buried," Carlita said she told the investigator as she wondered how she was supposed to come up with money she didn't have to bury her mother the first time.
At that point, she claims the investigator told her the box was overlooked in their office and suggested she cremate the remaining bones.
"He dropped her off like she was just a package," Carlita said. "This is not clothing. It's not a piece of jewelry. It's some of her body parts that are in this box."
The cardboard box is about two feet long and weighs five to ten pounds.
"His exact words were 'Oakland County is not going to pay for her to be disinterred,'" said Carlita, who cannot bring herself to open the box.
7 Action News contacted the Oakland County Medical Examiner's office for comment. We also reached out to Bill Mullan, spokesperson for Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson.
The following statement was released on behalf of the medical examiner's office:
The Oakland County Medical Examiner’s Office helped provide closure to the family of Darlene McKenzie by exhuming and identifying her remains through DNA testing four decades after her body was found in Farmington Hills. Darlene McKenzie’s remains from exhumation to re-burial were handled with dignity and care. In fact, the Oakland County M.E.’s Office went above and beyond its duty when it worked with the cemetery to provide a burial at no-cost and located a funeral home to donate a casket and marker to the family who did not have the means to pay for the reburial.
In circumstances beyond the control of the Oakland County M.E.’s Office, an out-of-state DNA lab sent Darlene McKenzie’s DNA bone samples back to the Oakland County M.E.’s Office after she was reburied. The Oakland County M.E.’s Office delivered the DNA sample bones to the funeral home. The family did not pick up the DNA sample bones until over a year later.
Carlita Ransom told 7 Action News she didn't want to bring the box of bones home from the funeral home because she still cannot afford the costs to have her mother's body exhumed, casket opened, and reburied.
7 Action News asked Mullan if the medical examiner told the funeral home or Carlita Ransom before the funeral and burial that there were still some bones at the lab.
We have not received a response.
"I'm tired," Carlita said. "I don't know which way to turn or what else to do."