CHICAGO (WBBM/CNN) – Two Chicago sisters made funeral arrangements for a man they thought was their deceased brother.
The sisters had made a series of medical decisions for him in the hospital then, they learned the dead man was not their brother at all.
Rosie Brooks said she got a phone call on May 13 that no one ever wants to receive.
“She identified herself as Jennifer, from Mercy Hospital. She was a social worker,” Brooks said. “She was looking for relatives of Alfonso Bennett and I told her that was my brother. ‘Well’ she said, ‘he’s here in ICU.’”
Brooks rushed to Mercy with her sister Brenda Bennett-Johnson.
“They had him on a ventilator, and they had a tube in his mouth,” Brooks said.
They both looked at the man in the hospital bed who did not look like their brother.
“I cannot identify this as my brother,” Brooks told a nurse.
“They kept saying, CPD identified this person as our brother,” said Bennett-Johnson.
Brooks said hospital staff said the man had been badly beaten, especially in the face.
The man who had been brought in as John Doe was found naked and without ID on April 29.
But their brother has a background and is rarely in touch with his four sisters.
Bennett-Johnson said a nurse told her police identified him through mugshots and not through fingerprints because of budget cuts.
“You don’t identify a person through a mugshot versus fingerprints,” Bennett-Johnson said. “Fingerprints carry everything.”
The sisters said the man responded to commands by raising his hand but never opened his eyes.
Soon, he started to languish.
The sisters signed papers to take him off a ventilator and gave permission for doctors to perform a tracheotomy.
He went into hospice.
Bennett-Johnson was with him.
“Within minutes he was ice cold,” she said.
They purchased a casket, a suit and made funeral arrangements.
Around the same time, they received a phone call from one of their other sisters.
"She called my sister Yolanda to say, 'It's a miracle! It's a miracle!'" Brooks said.
“’Brenda! Brenda! It’s Alfonso! It’s Alfonso! It’s Alfonso.’ I said, ‘You’re kidding!’ I almost had a heart attack,” Bennett-Johnson said.
Their brother was alive and well, and had just walked through her front door.
"It's sad it happened like that,” said Bennett-Johnson. “If it was our brother and we had to go through that, that would have been a different thing. But we made all kinds of decisions on someone that wasn't our family."
The sisters said the man they’d been caring for was later identified at the morgue, through fingerprints.
They said police are now looking for his relatives.
"I can't conceive of how a budgetary issue would drive whether or not a person who was a John Doe would be fingerprinted before they're taken off of life support,” said family attorney Cannon Lambert. “If that's the situation, something's got to be done."
A spokesperson from the hospital said the family did positively identify the man as their brother.