For a mother to lose their child is an unimaginable tragedy. When you add in authorities cremating the child without any consent, you have a large lawsuit on your hands.
A Tijuana woman who sued the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office over the cremation of her slain son’s remains, in violation of her religious faith, is poised to receive a $445,000 settlement.
A recommendation from the Office of County Counsel, aimed at resolving a federal lawsuit filed by Maria Elvira Quintanilla Cebreros, was presented earlier this month to the Los Angeles County Claims Board.
“Due to the risks and uncertainties of litigation, the County Counsel proposes a full and final settlement of this case,” attorney Brian T. Chu said in the recommendation.
It was not immediately clear when the county Board of Supervisors may vote on the recommendation. The Coroner’s Office declined to comment.
Cebreros alleges in her 2020 lawsuit that the county failed to perform its mandatory duties and violated her civil rights by failing to notify her that her son, Jesus Fabricio Sanchez Cebreros, had died in 2019 and then, without her permission, cremated his remains.
“Plaintiff is a devout Roman Catholic,” the lawsuit states. “Her religious and cultural belief systems include a strong conviction that the bodies of loved ones must be buried in a cemetery near the family. It is against the tenets of her faith to cremate a loved one.”
Jesus Cebreros, who lived with his mother in Tijuana, had a Visa/Border Crossing Card to legally enter the U.S. and often visited his young son in San Diego County, according to the lawsuit.
On May 20, 2019, Jesus Cebreros notified his mother that he would be staying with a friend for a few days in the U.S., the complaint states.
Then, on June 10, an off-duty Los Angeles Police Department officer noticed a black trash bag on the south side of eastbound Interstate 60 in the City of Industry. The officer pulled over to investigate, noticed a foul odor coming from the bag and called 911, the suit states.
A California Highway Patrol officer responded and noticed a decomposed hand protruding from the bag. An investigator with the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office soon arrived, and inspected the body, which was wrapped in black trash bags.
The death was determined to have been a homicide due to multiple stab wounds, the suit states.
Cebreros alleges Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department homicide investigators recovered various items of evidence at the scene, including a Mexican passport and a driver’s license that listed a telephone number and home address in Tijuana.
On June 11, the Coroner’s Office identified the deceased individual as Jesus Cebreros and his next-of-kin as “Elvira Cebreros in Tijuana” and noted she was his mother. However, a narrative included with the report falsely indicated his next-of-kin had not been identified, according to the complaint.
More alleged problems surfaced about two weeks later, when a deputy coroner completed Jesus Cebreros’ death certificate, incorrectly listing his birth country as Guatemala and his birth year as 1959. The county cremated Jesus Cebreros’ remains on July 30, 2019.
Meanwhile, Cebreros was tirelessly searching for her son in the U.S.
She met with the Mexican consulate, launched a social media campaign, and traveled to Los Angeles, where police told her there were no records matching the description of her missing son, the suit states.
In late August 2019, Cebreros learned from a response to her social media campaign that her son had died and was in the custody of the Coroner’s Office.
She met with Coroner’s Office officials, who confirmed Jesus Cebreros’ death and provided his personal effects, which included multiple identification cards showing his name, date of birth, address and telephone number, according to the suit.
“Defendants’ failure to notify plaintiff of the death of her son and to allow her to dictate the terms of his disposition and final resting place has been emotionally devastating,” the suit states.” Due to her religious and cultural beliefs regarding cremation, plaintiff struggles daily with the thought that her son may not have made it to his maker. She agonizes over whether she will see him in the afterlife.”