Current Affairs

Utah tribal family feud leads to stolen corpse

Feuding family members in Utah, America, turned to stealing a corpse and burying it in secret after conflicting views on their Ute Indian Tribe member son’s disposal.

Mother Fonda Ross had insisted that, after dying of an enlarged heart in early November, Teddy Serawop wanted to be cremated. But the 32-year-old’s father, who is a member of the Ute tribe, said his son wanted to be buried in a traditional tribal way.

A feud ensued, and things turned ugly when Ute tribal officials visited the Hullinger Mortuary where Teddy’s body was being held, with a tribal court order saying that his ex-girlfriend and mother of his three children had the legal right to his remains and wanted him buried – a claim which Roger Hullinger, vice president of the mortuary, refused.

“We were holding him here until we decided if the tribal courts have jurisdiction or the state courts have jurisdiction,” Hullinger told broadcaster ABC News.

Hullinger then conducted a phone call with the tribe’s lawyers – during which the protesting leaders closed his door. Moments later his colleague burst in, exclaiming: “They’ve taken him. He’s gone.” The funeral director proceeded outside and said he saw a pickup truck driving away with what he believed was Serawop’s casket in the back.

Serawop’s sister, Ricki Hackford, told a local radio station: “I didn’t believe it. They kidknapped his body last night and… as of now we don’t know where my brother is.”

Tribe members released a statement saying the 32-year-old was buried in a local cemetery, “pursuant to the cultural traditions of the Ute Indian tribe,” but his mother has vowed to continue the fight to retrieve his body.

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