This has come up before - the idea of publishing a fraudulent obit to mislead creditors or whatever. Usually it is one's own obit and not somebody else's though.
Woman says fake obituary intended to keep creditors at bay
A North Charleston woman who claimed to be the mother of a female Air Force officer killed in Iraq conceded Tuesday the officer doesn't exist.
Melanie Grant, 39, said she thought she could buy time with creditors if she told them her daughter had died. A paid obituary published Thursday and Friday in The Post and Courier stated Lt. Melissa Hope Grant, 24, died May 11 in Iraq.
"I just made it up. Honestly, I don't know what I was thinking," a tearful Melanie Grant said.
A photograph accompanied the obituary. Grant said she tore the photo from the pages of a bridal magazine.
Full obituaries and funeral notices are arranged through the newspaper's classified ad department. The Grant obituary was sent in from Suburban Funeral Home. The newspaper bills the funeral home, in this case $242.77, and the funeral home passes the cost on to the family.
Skip Mikell, executive vice president and general manager of Suburban Funeral Home, said he never suspected anything unusual about the "death."
Two women who identified themselves as aunts of the "deceased" sat in the funeral home's family room May 14 and gave Mikell basic information, he said. Grant said Tuesday that neither woman is a relative, but one is a longtime friend.
Though Mikell never met Grant, he said she called him last week. She told him she had to travel to a military base to pick up paperwork, which she would deliver to him Friday. Mikell said he became suspicious when Grant never showed. On Monday, he contacted a U.S. Department of Defense casualty officer who said she'd check all branches of the military for a Lt. Melissa Hope Grant. Mikell was still waiting Tuesday afternoon for word from Defense.
Grant said she got scared after the obituary was published.
Readers began posting online messages in the guest book for Lt. Melissa Hope Grant the day the obituary appeared, although most said they didn't know the woman or the family. Like many, Robbie Bray, chaplain of the Tri-County Blue Star Mother's Chapter of Charleston, expressed sympathy for the family and gratefulness for the woman's service to her country.
Bray's sadness turned to shock Tuesday when told there was no Lt. Melissa Hope Grant.
"What? Oh my gosh, why? Oh my goodness gracious. Oh my gosh, that is awful. My heavens. What a misrepresentation," Bray said.
Grant said she decided to come clean when questioned Tuesday by a Post and Courier reporter. She said she lives on disability on a fixed income and is raising two grandchildren and one stepgrandchild.
The idea of creating a death "just came in my head," as a way to get creditors to give her some space, she said.
Grant's criminal history obtained through the State Law Enforcement Division showed 15 variations on her name and several old convictions on loitering for the purpose of prostitution. The majority of her arrests were in the 1980s and 1990s. There is a pending fraudulent check charge from February.
Grant acknowledged Tuesday that she'd been arrested before, but said she'd worked hard to clean up her life. She said she's embarrassed that she duped so many people.
"It just wasn't worth it," she said.
Mikell said he'll consider the experience a lesson learned, and the funeral home will not try to collect the cost of the obituaries from Grant, who is already "ducking" creditors, he said.
Reach Nita Birmingham at 937-5433 or firstname.lastname@example.org.