Hearse Theft

Woman Describes Heartbreak of Learning Her Mother’s Body Was in Stolen Hearse

A stolen hearse with a casket and the body of a woman still inside crashed during a freeway pursuit hours after the theft

NBC Universal, Inc.

Therese Burch was watching TV coverage of a gut-wrenching story out of the San Gabriel Valley Wednesday -- a hearse had been stolen from a funeral home with the casket and a woman's body still inside.

Her thoughts were with the woman's grieving family members.

It wasn't until later that she would find out the awful truth.

"Of course, the first thing you think of is, 'Oh, that poor family. What if that was my mom?' And, then you find out it is," Burch said.

Th black Lincoln Navigator hearse was carrying the body of her 93-year-old mother, whom she described as a beautiful woman and a great mom.

Forgiveness goes a long ways.

Therese Burch

The next morning, the twisted series of events came to an end when the stolen SUV crashed on the 110 Freeway south of downtown LA. The casket and body were still inside.

The remains were returned to the funeral home Thursday.

The SUV was stolen Wednesday when the keys were left inside near St. Anthony Greek Orthodox Church, in an unincorporated area near Pasadena, as another body was being unloaded from the SUV, the sheriff's department said.

A SUV that was stolen in Pasadena with a casket and body inside crashed on the 110 Freeway. Mekahlo Medina reports for the NBC4 News at 11 a.m. on Thursday Feb. 27, 2020.

Burch, a hairdresser, had planned to do her deceased mother's hair Thursday morning in preparation for the funeral. She said she was initially told the stolen hearse was not carrying her mother.

"I did not handle the truth very well," said Chapman Funeral Home owner Terry Harmon. "I've never been through something like this.

"I am truly, truly sorry for not handling that very professionally."

Burch said she accepts the apology.

"That's good enough for us," Burch said. "Forgiveness goes a long ways."

The private funeral service will go on Friday, Burch said.

A 24-year-old driver was arrested after the SUV crashed Thursday morning at the end of the brief chase. Deputies said a caller reported seeing the SUV, a description of which was tweeted by the sheriff's department in an effort to track it down.

"Out of all the bad decisions you have made, at least make one good one & bring back the deceased person & casket inside the Navigator," the LA County Sheriff's Department tweeted Wednesday.

Contact Us