Listen: 911 call released of Detroit funeral home employee discovering woman alive

The employee said Timesha Beauchamp was breathing and her tongue was moving when she was found alive after being declared dead


Mark Hicks
The Detroit News

DETROIT — On the phone with a 911 dispatcher one day last month, a man at Detroit's James H. Cole Home for Funerals was in disbelief.

The body his staff had been slated to tend to, whom authorities have identified as Timesha Beauchamp, was not dead as they'd been told but "still breathing," he said.

An employee at James H. Cole Home for Funerals called 911 after Timesha Beauchamp was found alive after being declared dead. The employee told dispatchers Beauchamp was breathing and her tongue was moving. (Photo/James H. Cole Home for Funerals via TNS)
An employee at James H. Cole Home for Funerals called 911 after Timesha Beauchamp was found alive after being declared dead. The employee told dispatchers Beauchamp was breathing and her tongue was moving. (Photo/James H. Cole Home for Funerals via TNS)

"I’ve been doing this like 32 years and I’ve never had a situation like this before," the man told the dispatcher.

The nearly six-minute tape supports what authorities and investigators have revealed in the unusual case that has drawn widespread attention and led to discipline for some of the emergency personnel involved.

The recording of the 911 call was obtained by The Detroit News on Wednesday through a Freedom of Information Act request.

Officials have said the Southfield Fire Department responded to a call about 7:35 a.m. Aug. 23 for an unresponsive woman at a home in the city.

Four paramedic-firefighters treated Beauchamp, who has been described as having had cerebral palsy from birth and is on three breathing treatments daily. The woman suffered what was "apparently a seizure" during her normal morning routine, said attorney Geoffrey Fieger, who is representing the family.

The medics tried lifesaving efforts on the woman for about 30 minutes but she showed "no signs of life," said Southfield Fire Chief Johnny Menifee. A Providence Hospital doctor pronounced Beauchamp dead after one of the responders made a telephone report she had been unresponsive and showed no signs of life.

Despite concerns expressed by Beauchamp’s relatives that she appeared to still be breathing and had a pulse, they were told that was normal and a result of medication and “that the patient’s chest may move again but she is deceased.”

Beauchamp was taken to the Cole funeral home's northwest chapel on Schaefer in Detroit. There, according to a Southfield Police report, “while they were picking up the body they noticed the patient’s chest moving … the chest was rising and falling very fast and the patient gasped …”

The 911 call a funeral home staffer placed was recorded at about 11:43 a.m., according to the tape.

The man told the dispatcher he had "picked a deceased patient up" but she was "still breathing out her mouth and ... stomach."

When the dispatcher asked if the woman was awake, the staffer said her eyes were open but stayed that way due to what the family described as a medical condition. Detroit officials edited out the details the man relayed.

The dispatcher told the worker, who had gone to the front of the funeral home building to wait for medics, to check how often the woman breathed.

The man said she was "breathing short breaths" and had been "constantly breathing. …her tongue is moving."

Beauchamp has since been hospitalized, and her family retained Fieger to investigate possible negligence by authorities at the scene.

The four medics involved were placed on leave last month, and the state has suspended their licenses. They are now suing state and local officials, alleging their medical licenses were suspended without due process.

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©2020 The Detroit News

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