Woman found alive at Detroit funeral home spent 2 hours in body bag, Fieger says

James David Dickson
The Detroit News

Southfield — The family of a Southfield woman declared dead last weekend before she was discovered still breathing at a Detroit funeral home has retained attorney Geoffrey Fieger to investigate possible negligence by authorities at the scene.

The woman, Timesha Beauchamp, 20, was in a body bag for at least two hours before being found alive by workers at the funeral home, Fieger said at a Tuesday online press conference.

"She needed to be taken to a hospital, not a funeral home," the Southfield-based lawyer said.

Monday:In Southfield, a 'thorough investigation' into how woman declared dead returned to life

Attorney Geoffrey Fieger speaks during a press conference today by Zoom about Timesha Beauchamp, Tuesday, August 26, 2020.

The Southfield Fire Department responded to a 911 call at about 7:35 a.m. Sunday for an unresponsive woman, authorities said. 

The woman suffered what was "apparently a seizure" during her normal morning routine: eat, change clothes and have a breathing treatment, Fieger said. She was not breathing, and her lips had lost color, he said. 

Beauchamp has had cerebral palsy from birth and is on three breathing treatments a day.

"That may be incidentally involved; we don't know," Fieger said.

It was after police and medics arrived that "the entire sad scenario gets very, very murky," he said.

Medics tried "life-saving efforts" on the woman for about half an hour, Southfield Fire Chief Johnny Menifee said. But the woman showed "no signs of life."

Fieger said a godmother of the woman, who works in the medical field, was at the house at the time and told authorities that Beauchamp was not dead. But they allegedly argued that the movements were involuntary, a reaction to the life-saving efforts just applied, the attorney added.

After the fire department consulted with an emergency room doctor at Providence Hospital, who declared the woman dead, the Oakland County Medical Examiner's Office signed off on releasing the woman's body to the family.

The woman was placed in a body bag at about 9 a.m., Fieger said. The James H. Cole Home for Funerals in Detroit on Schaefer took custody of the woman's body just before 11:30 a.m., he said.

But workers who opened the body bag realized the woman was not dead. The workers were preparing to embalm Beauchamp.

"She was alive, her eyes were open, and she was breathing," Fieger said.

The funeral home workers called 911, and Detroit Fire Department medics arrived. The woman was breathing. Her heart was beating at a rate of 80 beats per minute. 

Beauchamp remains hospitalized in critical condition, said Brian Taylor, a spokesman for the Detroit Medical Center. 

The Southfield Fire Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But Fire Chief Johnny Menifee said Monday the department will investigate the matter.