Carrie Minney could have sworn the woman in the casket was her 50-year-old daughter.
When Minney and the rest of Sharolyn Jackson's family attended her viewing, funeral and burial in New Jersey on Aug. 3, they noted that Jackson's nose looked thinner. But they figured something had happened to it during the embalming process.
The truth is far stranger: The woman they buried that day was not, in fact, their loved one but a lookalike. Jackson showed up at a Philadelphia hospital on Aug. 16, several weeks after she had been reported missing and 13 days after her family thought they had laid her to rest at Colonial Memorial Park in Hamilton, N.J.
"There was really a strong resemblance, a really strong resemblance," Minney, 69, said Friday in a phone interview from her home in Trenton, N.J. "She looks so much like Sharol they could be sisters."
Jackson was reported missing around the time that paramedics took a woman who'd been found lying in a Philadelphia street to a hospital, where she died July 20. One of Jackson's sons and a social worker at Horizon House, where her mother said she had been receiving treatment for drug and mental health problems, viewed pictures of the dead woman's body and made the identification.
The medical examiner determined the woman died of heat stroke, signed a death certificate and released the body to the family, Philadelphia Department of Health spokesman James Garrow said.
"If someone comes in and they're a family member and say, 'That's my mom,' that's generally good enough," Garrow said.
After Jackson showed up at Pennsylvania Hospital last week, police confirmed her identity through fingerprints. Her son went to the hospital and immediately recognized her.
"He said, 'That's my mom. We made a terrible mistake,'" Garrow said.
Philadelphia officials plan to exhume the buried body in hopes of correctly identifying it.
Minney said her daughter remains hospitalized. They've spoken only briefly over the phone, and Minney isn't sure her daughter knows a funeral was held for her.
"I'm still overjoyed," Minney said. "I got to come down from the joy because somebody else is dead. We don't know who it is, and it bothers me that somebody else's daughter is laying in that grave out there."
Philadelphia's KYW-TV first reported on the funeral.