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Constance Glantz's body was taken to Butherus-Maser & Love, a funeral home in Lincoln, Nebraska. (Butherus-Maser & Love via CNN Newsource)

Woman declared dead found alive at funeral home

June 5, 2024

By Susannah Cullinane, Joe Sutton, Andy Rose and Michelle Krupa, CNN

(CNN) — Constance Glantz had been in a nursing home – in hospice care.

Whatever ailment had ushered the 74-year-old toward this inescapable brink, her death – as those whose business it is to care for the recently departed often say – had been expected.

They say in such cases that “a ‘death of a patient is anticipated,’” the sheriff’s chief deputy in Lancaster County, Nebraska, later would explain: “A physician had seen her in the last seven days, and the physician is willing to sign the death certificate, and that there was nothing suspicious at that time of the death – all of those fit.”

Under such circumstances, a coroner’s investigation would not be required and no law enforcement officer dispatched, Ben Houchin said.

“That’s the reason,” continued Houchin, still working through the astonishing – some might say miraculous – events that had only just unfolded Monday, “why (the sheriff’s office) was not sent initially to the nursing home.”

Indeed, earlier that same day – at 9:44 a.m. – staff at The Mulberry home in Waverly had pronounced Constance dead, the chief deputy said.

Given the outcome had been foreseen, at least two people likely then came to take her body away to be prepared for what would come next, he said – no further confirmation needed.

At the funeral home in Lincoln, more experts in death soon moved to place Constance on a table, Houchin said, “to start their process.”

It was only then that a worker noticed something truly odd.

Nearly two hours since the nursing home staff’s final declaration and after what would be a 25-minute drive to the funeral home, Constance – whose name comes from the Latin, “constant” or “steadfast” – exhibited something truly extraordinary:

She was breathing.

“They instantly called 911,” the veteran lawman said.

The call from Butherus, Maser and Love, as CNN affiliate KOLN reported, came in around 11:45 a.m., Houchin said.

Lincoln police, fire and rescue personnel rushed to the funeral home, where they found Constance engaged in that entirely ordinary – and also then somehow impossible act – of breathing.

“She was taken to a local hospital,” Houchin said that afternoon, “and is still alive.”

‘This is a very unusual case’

Constance persevered a few more hours.

Then around 4 p.m., her breathing stopped.

She again was pronounced dead, Houchin said later, adding an autopsy was conducted Tuesday morning.

Constance’s family was told all about what happened, Houchin said, and the sheriff’s office started an investigation, including visiting the nursing home.

“At this point, we have not been able to find any criminal intent by the nursing home, but the investigation is ongoing,” Houchin said Monday. “I’m sure the nursing home and everybody else is going to be taking a look into what has happened, and I’m sure they’ll look and see if new protocols need to be made and if they were all followed.”

“The funeral home did absolutely nothing wrong,” Houchin added Tuesday, citing the investigation. “They are the ones who found that she was still alive.”

Butherus, Maser and Love Funeral Home is “proud that our directors and staff handled the recent incident in the news appropriately and with upmost care,” it said in a statement. “Our prayers go out to the family.

“We thank Lincoln Fire & Rescue and the Lincoln Police Department for their quick response,” it added. “Thank you to all who have placed their loved ones in our care. We will continue to serve our community with our core values: faith, trust, and compassion.

The funeral home and the nursing home have been “totally cooperative” with the sheriff’s office investigation, Houchin said. CNN has sought comment from both.

Whether charges are warranted likely won’t be decided until after the final autopsy results are in, up to 12 weeks from now, he said: “That’s going to be the next big step.”

For his part, the chief deputy has “been doing this 31 years, and nothing like this has ever gotten to this point before,” he told reporters.

“This,” he observed, perhaps unnecessarily, “is a very unusual case.”

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