EXCLUSIVE: Family claims funeral home refused to provide service after expecting mother died in crash

Local News

TYLER, Texas (KETK)- An East Texas family is demanding answers, after a Tyler mother and her unborn child died in a horrific accident.

The family claims a Longview funeral home took the woman’s body from the hospital, and then refused to provide service until they made a payment.

It’s been the longest journey of Ronnie Smith’s life.

“I don’t know everything that went down in the wreck. I just know she was there, she was there, she was right there,” said Mr. Smith, as tears fell from his eyes.

The “she” he kept referring to, is his wife, Jataria Lynn Smith, considered to be the love of his life. While Mr. Smith might not remember much about the accident that took her life, it’s easy for him to recall the feelings he had for her. During a period of time he says he “wasn’t looking for anything serious,” he believes God had other plans.

“I just know the car came out, and then flash, I had a flash out. I had a flash out, I couldn’t remember. Oh God,” Mr. Smith cried out.

In August, 26-year-old Jataria Lynn Smith was riding in the car with her husband.

According to the police report, Smith was driving down state highway 64, when a driver pulled out his private driveway, but failed to yield the right of way. The cars collided, sending both drivers to the hospital in critical condition.

Jataria was sitting in the passenger seat. Both Jataria and her unborn child were killed.

Smith now sits in a wheelchair, the doctors telling him it will be 12 months before he can fully walk again.

“I had two cracked ribs, or two broke ribs, I still have them, and I’m still trying to maintain. My head still hurts my ribs still hurt, it’s still hurting in my back,” said Smith.

The Smith’s say it’s been weeks since they’ve been able to bury Jataria. Going back and forth with the funeral home, they’re hoping to find a resolution.

According to the family, the Smith’s wanted two services and contacted the funeral home in Longview to make a change, Rosewood Funeral Home.

The Smiths claim their frustration started in the hospital. They say they don’t remember giving the funeral home permission to take the body.

However, the owner of the funeral home, Joshua Anderson, says Mr. Smith contacted them.

Then, the Smith’s say they hit a roadblock when it came to payment.

“They were reluctant I would say, to just accept the assignment on the policy,” said Sharon Board, Ronnie’s Aunt.

The Smith’s say Jataria’s life insurance policy was considered “contestable”, meaning an investigation into her death had to be performed.

In a statement from the Rosewood Funeral home, they say, “we do not honor contestable insurance policies.”

Also stating, they “will not perform the services until the service funds have been secured.”

“The cost had added up. Up until that point was $7,300, so that bill had to be paid before they would release the body to another funeral home,” said Board.

The family says they tried to switch funeral homes to cut costs, but Rosewood wouldn’t release the body until the balance had been paid.

The Smith’s say, because Ronnie lost his job due to the accident, and moved to Fort Worth to live with his Aunt, the family couldn’t afford the funeral out of pocket, without the help of insurance.

Mechele Mills with the Better Business Bureau says funerals can be expensive and suggests having a plan in place, just in case.

“You can go to any funeral home and pre-pay your expenses so that at the time of death, the family doesn’t have to worry about which coffin you wanted, or how you wanted the service,” said Mills.

Once KETK started digging into this story, the funeral home and the Smith’s were able to come to an agreement. Jataria’s visitation is scheduled for Friday, with the funeral service to follow on Saturday.

The Smiths have set up a GoFundMe page, to help offset the costs of medical bills, and the funeral.

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