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Funeral home says it didn't open body bag before wrongfully cremating veteran

Teddy Hennings died on September 28th, and specifically told his wife Jackie that he didn’t want to be cremated. (PHOTO: Jackie Hennings)

The funeral home accused of wrongfully cremating a Little Rock veteran admitted to a state board they never opened the body bag.

As KATV previously reported, the veteran’s wife filed a claim against the Little Rock VA Hospital, after two bodies were mislabeled.

On Thursday, Mark Robison, the owner of Wilson-Robison Funeral Home in England told the State Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors that no one bothered to open the body bag before cremation.

Teddy Hennings died on September 28th, and specifically told his wife Jackie that he didn’t want to be cremated.

At the board meeting, Robison accepted part of the blame but continued to point the finger at the VA Hospital.

"The problem was they got the wrong tags on the individuals,” said Robison.

“No, the problem is you didn’t open the bag. That's the problem, I don't want to hear that,” said board member John Wilkerson. “You didn't open the bag. You had serviced the family before, right?”

Robison acknowledged they had serviced the family for previous funeral arrangements.

“So you can open the bag and say, 'That's not a black family, that's not a white family.' But you didn't open the bag. I don't want to hear it's somebody else's fault ... you didn't open the bag,” Wilkerson stated.

Following the hearing, KATV spoke with Robison and his attorney. Robison said it wasn’t just his fault, and his attorney echoed that by adding that other parties responsible aren’t being blame.

"It's a terrible tragedy that happened, but like I said, it initially started with the VA,” added Robison.

When asked if he bothered to reach out to Jackie Hennings since the incident in late September, he said no, but offered an apology on camera.

"Deeply, I’m deeply, deeply sorry for what happened and I’d be glad to sit down and visit with them anytime,” said Robison.

Hennings spoke with KATV following Robison’s interview and said she accepted his apology, but still wants changes.

"I want some protocols and procedures in place to prevent this from ever happening to anyone again," she said.

Initially, the board and funeral home owner had come to an agreement to avoid a hearing, but after Robison admitted the body bag wasn't opened, they rejected it and set a hearing. The board did, however, lift his license suspension.

A hearing is set for February 8th.

Channel 7 News reached out to the VA Hospital for further comment, but a spokesperson said they had nothing further than this previous statement released on Wednesday.

“This is absolutely unacceptable and heartbreaking,” said Dr. Margie Scott, Medical Center director. “There are no words that can adequately express our sympathy to the families involved. All Veterans who have passed in our facility, and their families, should be treated with dignity, respect and honor. We are absolutely devastated and I have personally made contact with both families, and apologized for this error.”

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