What was supposed to be a dignified memorial service for Regina Christophe now has her family suing a New York City funeral home. The 37-year-old died in her sleep on June 24, and her family soon after retained McManus Funeral Home in Brooklyn to prepare her body for the service and burial, reports CBS News. They asked that the funeral be postponed for two weeks so that extended family in Florida would have time to make travel arrangements. The medical examiner tells the network that Christophe's body was ready to be picked up by the funeral home by June 25, the day after her death, and that McManus staff was alerted ASAP. News 12 notes, however, that Christophe's body wasn't picked up until June 29—the day after McManus received payment for its services—and things deteriorated even further from there, according to her family.
Christophe's mother, Chantal Jean, tells WABC that she asked multiple times over the two weeks before the memorial service to see her daughter's body, but that she kept getting put off with various excuses, including the body not being clothed and not yet having makeup on. Finally, on July 9, the day of the wake, family members were finally able to view Christophe's body—and they say it was a horror show. "Her face looked like it was caved in," Jean says. "Actually, looks like it was burned, as fake skin was like melting off her face." She adds that she saw a maggot emerge out of her daughter's eye, that Christophe's dress was stained, and that there were garbage bags wrapped around her neck and feet. The scene was so disturbing that Jean prevented Christophe's two daughters, ages 6 and 16, from viewing their mother's body, family attorney Kurt Robertson tells the New York Post.
Robertson says that what was in the casket didn't even "look like a person at all. It [looked] like a mud monster," adding: "The evidence strongly suggests she had not been embalmed." That evidence allegedly includes a bad stench emanating from the casket—so bad that the casket was taken away (reportedly by a family member and funeral home staffer) and a photo of Christophe was put up in its place. Anthony Tenga, the manager of McManus, tells News 12 that he's "devastated" by what happened, and that various factors, including how long the body was left in the heat before it arrived at the ME's office, contributed. However, he says he gave the family "fair warning" the day before and the day of the wake. Jean and her daughter's ex-boyfriend are now suing the funeral home for unspecified damages. (Read more funeral home stories.)