To this day, Zachariah and Danielle Young, of Darien Center, really don't know what happened to the remains of their stillborn daughter, Evangeline Elsie.
A photo of the document Michael Tomaszewski reportedly produced showing
Zach Young authorized the
cremation of his daughter.
Legally, we are told, a verbal
authorization is not permitted.
They have a box of ashes but the don't feel assured that the box contains the ashes of the little girl they still call Eva.
"The paperwork had the date that literally was a scribble on it," Zach said. "We have absolutely no answers as to when she was actually cremated."
The Youngs said they didn't want Eva cremated, at least not at the time the baby may have been cremated. And, as they remember, when Michael Tomaszewski Funeral and Cremation Chapel received the remains of the baby from Rochester Regional Hospital, he said he wouldn't do it.
As Zach remembers it, Tomaszewski, or "Tom," as they knew him, said "something doesn't look right" and so he agreed to hold onto the remains while the Youngs researched the circumstances of their daughter's death.
The baby was born at UMMC. She had seemed healthy
just days before when doctors detected a strong heartbeat.
On Feb. 22, when Zach and Danielle arrived at the hospital,
the couple was told Eva's heart had stopped beating.
After hours of labor, Danielle gave birth to a lifeless body.
"It was devastating," Zach said.
"A mother knows their baby already before they're born," Danielle said. "A mother already has that bond. It's like having somebody rip that away and be careless with her remains is just insane. I don't understand it."
Genesee County Coronor Karen Lang confirmed that Eva was born Feb. 22 at UMMC and her body was sent to Rochester Regional for an autopsy. Eva's little body was then sent by courier to Tomaszewski. Tomaszewski has acknowledged receiving the body.
But what happened next is muddled by the funeral director's contradictory stories to the Youngs and to Lang.
On Thursday, the Sheriff's Office announced the arrest of Tomaszewski on about 200 charges. Most of the charges are related to allegations that he misappropriated fund families had prepaid for funeral services. He is also accused of failing to fulfill contracts to purchase headstones and gravesites.
What he hasn't been charged with yet -- and it's unclear if there will be charges -- is how he handled the remains of some deceased people. Chief Deputy Joseph Graff, Sheriff's Office, has confirmed, the department is looking into multiple reports of Tomaszewski mishandling the remains of people who died. The two cases Graff has confirmed involved a veteran who should have been interred at the Bath National Cemetary -- for free -- and the remains of Evangeline Elsie Young.
Lang said she became involved in the Young case after talking with the parents last November. At that point, she learned the Youngs still did not have the remains of Eva nor Eva's autopsy report.
Both Tomaszewski and Rochester Regional Health were offered an opportunity to comment on this story. Neither responded with a comment.
Tomaszewski has provided both the Youngs and Lang with multiple stories about what happened with Eva's remains. He told the Youngs in June that he hadn't delivered the remains to the crematorium and then a short time later said she had been cremated.
In November, he told Coroner Jeff McIntyre, who was assisting Lang with the case while she was on vacation, that he cremated Eva when he first received the remains; however, Tomaszewski couldn't produce documentation. He later told Lang he cremated the baby in June.
Most people don't understand, Lang said, that most funeral homes don't have the facilities to store the remains of deceased people for long periods of time.
When Lang asked Tomaszewski, who also operates a catering facility, what he did with Eva's body from February until June, Lang said Tomaszewski told her that he kept the body in a cooler in his prep room.
Tomaszewski eventually produced documentation on the cremation of Eva but neither of the Youngs signed it -- which Lang said is required by law. Instead, the document says the Youngs gave permission over the phone for the cremation.
Based on their conversation with county officials -- which includes an interview the Sheriff's Office -- the Youngs suspect the box of ashes they received is too light to contain the remains of a once nine-pound baby. So they feel in limbo. Their church -- High Point in Pembroke -- held a service for Eva but they didn't have her ashes then and they don't know if what they have now are really her ashes.
They would just like answers.
"I think to make it up, he would have to really admit to his wrongs and not just for me, but for a lot of people," Danielle said. "Losing somebody as it is, is something traumatic to have to deal with. And for us to trust you with our dead loved one..."
"It would be nice to at least know what happened because we got three different stories from him," Zach interjected.
"We don't really have answers," Danielle said. "To be honest -- to be honest with anybody -- would be good. The trauma of losing our daughter was bad enough and then to have to worry about her remains -- that wasn't professional."