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Michigan man’s bone mistakenly buried with teen’s remains

PONTIAC, Mich. (AP) — A bone from the remains of a man found dead in 2016 was mistakenly buried with the remains of a teenage girl found dead in 1975, according to Michigan officials.

A bone from Donald Smith’s remains was mistakenly released last year with Darlene McKenzie’s remains, which were then buried in Pontiac in February 2017, the Oakland County Medical Examiner’s Office said. The office discovered the error this week while reviewing McKenzie’s case.

“We are working to determine how the error occurred,” said Dr. Ljubisa J. Dragovic, the county’s chief medical examiner. “When we identify that reason, we will implement corrective actions.”

McKenzie was 15 when she disappeared from her Detroit home. Her body went unidentified for more than 40 years after being discovered in a Farmington Hills ditch. Police reopened the case in 2015 with the hope of using advanced technology to identify the body.

Smith’s mummified remains were found at a Hazel Park home in July 2016. Samples from both bodies were sent to the University of North Texas later that year for testing.

After tests were completed, the medical examiner’s office received Smith’s bone sample back from the university in February 2017. Two days later, Smith’s bone sample was given to Husband Funeral Home in Westland along with McKenzie’s remains.

The medical examiner’s office then received McKenzie’s bone samples from the university in April 2017 and delivered them to the funeral home. McKenzie’s family didn’t pick up the remains until this week, which prompted the review of the case.

The office is working with the families to place McKenzie’s additional remains in her casket and retrieve Smith’s remains, said Casimir Miarka, the office’s administrator. The county will cover the expenses.

“I’m reading everything I can, doing everything we can to investigate where the error occurred. We never want this to happen to anybody else. We want to make sure we hold ourselves to a high standard. We sincerely apologize,” Miarka said.

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