Mother’s ashes missing after being mailed to Jacksonville

Sister says they were mistakenly sent to prior address & haven’t been located

Two sisters say the U.S. Postal Service lost their mother's ashes. The box was carrying the cremains from Louisville to Florida-- but the wrong address was on the label-- and the ashes have since disappeared. News4Jax reporter Vic Micolucci exposes what went wrong.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – They’re sacred to families and meant to be in good hands, but two sisters say their mother’s ashes are missing after they were mailed to Jacksonville.

The package that the cremated remains were sent in is nowhere to be found nearly a week after they were mailed.

Melissa, a Jacksonville resident who asked to keep her last name private, said her half-sister in Louisville, Kentucky, sent her mother’s remains through USPS Priority Mail on Thursday. They were supposed to arrive overnight, and the box required a signature. However, while the shipment was market as having been delivered, Melissa said she never got the package.

“It’s very difficult,” she told News4Jax. “I thought this was going to be able to give me some closure and now I don’t have that.”

Her half-sister, Amy Redford, had them in Kentucky for nearly a decade and agreed to send them to Melissa in Jacksonville.

Redford said she unknowingly sent the package to Melissa’s former address, which she recently moved from. The mail carrier left the box with the current tenant living at the Arlington apartment complex. That renter told the USPS she accepted the box but then put it back on the doorstep after realizing it wasn’t for her.

“I had a forwarding address. It was priority mail in a box, marked with human remains, red tape,” Melissa said. “Now they’re lost. So of course I’m devastated.”

She noted that the package needed a signature from her to be received, per USPS policies with priority mail.

Both sisters have been working to get answers about what happened, including frequent phone calls and emails with the postmaster. But there’s no trace.

“The carrier was supposed to call her first, and I know they have the right number because I talked to (Melissa) via text and phone all the time,” Redford said. “But they did not call her. They did not arrange the delivery to make sure that she was there to sign for it.”

Redford sent News4Jax a picture of the box, which she obtained from the post office. It’s clearly labeled in red: “Cremated remains.”

Photo submitted by family

“And all I wanted to do was put my family at peace,” Redford said, with tears in her eyes. “And I just feel like every time I try to do something good, it ends up in a disaster.”

News4Jax received a comment from a USPS spokesperson. In an email, Carol Hunt wrote:

“The Postal Service always strives to provide the best possible service to our customers. In this instance, we first wish to offer our condolences to the family and a sincere apology for the unintended delay in delivering this important package. We are keenly aware of the sensitivity of this matter and are focused on ensuring the package is located as quickly as possible. The Postal Service is taking every possible step to resolve this issue. We have been in contact with the customer and will continue to reach out to them regularly to provide updates. We regret that the package has not yet been located, but we will continue our vigilance to resolve the matter.”

USPS is the only legal way to mail cremated remains.

The sisters said they want postal workers to be more careful and for USPS to change its policies to make sure this doesn’t happen again. USPS has a web page with its policies and procedures for shipping human remains.

The sisters said they fear the worst, and have little hope the package will be found.

“I feel like somebody realized what they were, and I feel like they got thrown in a dumpster,” Melissa said. “I don’t think I’m ever going to see them again.”

There is a chance- one the sisters are trying to stay optimistic about.

“I don’t want anything to do with the person who supposedly took them or got them, I just want them back. I don’t care about any repercussions, I just want them back,” Melissa said.

“I’m just hoping for some good Samaritan to find them and maybe return them to the post office,” Redford added. “Maybe we can get them back.”

If you have any information that can help locate the remains, you’re asked to contact USPS.

About the Author:

Lifetime Jacksonville resident anchors the 8 and 9 a.m. weekday newscasts and is part of the News4Jax I-Team.