Woman Declared Dead Was About to Be Embalmed When Funeral Home Saw Her Breathing, Attorney Says

Timesha Beauchamp's godmother told police she saw Timesha breathing, but was told her movements were a result of the drugs they'd administered, a family attorney said

Timesha Beauchamp
Timesha Beauchamp. Photo: Fieger Law

The 20-year-old Michigan woman who was declared dead when she was still alive was saved just in the nick of time, as a funeral home staffer realized the error while beginning the embalming process, according to the family’s attorney.

Timesha Beauchamp was declared dead via phone by an emergency room doctor around 8 a.m. on Saturday at her home in Southfield, and was picked up by the James H. Cole Home for Funerals around 11:30 a.m., family attorney Geoffrey Fieger said at a press conference Tuesday.

She arrived at the funeral home in a body bag — but as a staffer prepared to embalm her body, they noticed Timesha’s eyes were open, and she was still breathing.

“The funeral director called the family, was very upset about it,” Fieger said. “Timesha was eventually rushed to Sinai-Grace Hospital, where she’s been treated ever since. There is no specific diagnosis at the moment, [but] we understand she’s in critical condition.”

Bill Mullan, a spokesperson for the Oakland County Medical Examiner’s Office, told PEOPLE on Monday that Timesha was declared dead by the ER doctor based on real-time medical data, including heartbeat and breathing, that was provided by responding authorities and EMS personnel.

Timesha Beauchamp
Timesha Beauchamp. Fieger Law

Once she was declared dead, the Southfield Fire Department contacted the medical examiner’s office, where the forensic pathologist on duty determined that her body should be released to her family and did not need to undergo further forensic examination, he said.

Timesha has cerebral palsy, which requires three breathing treatments per day, and the pathologist cited her previous medical history as part of the reason why an autopsy was not needed.

But according to Fieger, Timesha’s godmother, a registered nurse, noticed she was still breathing and tried to sound the alarm before she was whisked away to the funeral home — to no avail.

“She indicated that she had seen Timesha breathing and she felt that Timesha had a pulse,” Fieger said at the press conference. “And the police did not respond to her statements that she did not believe her goddaughter was dead… She was in the room, she was there with the police and the EMS and she told them that she had been moving, she saw movements. They told her they did not believe the movements were volitional, that the movements were involuntary, they were related to the drugs they had administered to Timesha, and that it did not change their opinion as to the fact that they felt she was dead.”

Timesha’s family called police around 7:30 a.m. on Saturday after she awoke with pale lips and difficulty breathing. She was declared dead around 8 a.m., and police told her family that the medical examiner and/or a physician agreed with the declaration, Fieger said. She was then placed in a body bag for two and a half hours before arriving at the funeral home.

“I was obtained by the family to investigate negligence, considering Timesha had died when she in fact not only was alive, but maybe was ill to the point where she needed medical treatment, needed transportation to a hospital, but not transportation to a funeral home,” Fieger said at the press conference. “We’re investigating those issues with regards to the police and the medical examiner.”

In a statement to PEOPLE, a spokesperson for the Southfield Fire Department says responding authorities “followed all appropriate city, county and state protocols and procedures in this case.”

The spokesperson said the City of Southfield is conducting a “thorough” internal investigation, and so is the Oakland County Medical Control Authority, which will report its findings to the State of Michigan Bureau of EMS, Trauma and Preparedness.

Meanwhile, Timesha’s family continues to heal from the emotional trauma they endured in the incident.

“On behalf of the family, we’re devastated about what has happened. We would like people to continue to pray for Timesha, and keep her family in your prayers,” her mother, Erica Lattimore, said in a statement.

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