- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 25, 2007

RICHMOND (AP) — Latanya Williams was found dead in a Richmond house in 2001. Her unclaimed remains were cremated the next year.

But her relatives, who filed a missing-person report with police days after she died, weren”t informed of her death until last month.

“She was somebody”s daughter, she was a human being, and they didn”t let us know,” said her father, Reginald Pryor. “I guess the police didn”t think she deserved that.”

The delay was due to a paperwork error, and the Richmond Police Department wants to apologize, Maj. David McCoy said.

“It”s just awful,” he said. “I really feel for this family.”

Miss Williams” family asked police for information about the missing mother of two in August, prompting police to backtrack through their paperwork, Maj. McCoy said. That was when they found the death investigation and missing-person report.

Miss Williams, 30, died from an accidental drug overdose on June 23, 2001. Police said a missing-person report on her was dated June 26.

The state medical examiner”s office in Richmond, which performed an autopsy a few days after she died, said Miss Williams was identified at that time.

The medical examiner”s office gave Miss Williams” body to the Richmond Sheriff”s Office on Jan. 9, 2002. Under state law, the sheriff”s office is responsible for disposing of unclaimed remains.

Miss Williams was cremated Feb. 4, 2002, according to sheriff”s office records.

Miss Williams” family said they first approached police a few days before officially filing the missing-person report, when Miss Williams had not been seen for a day or two. They said they gave police three names of relatives, with addresses and phone numbers, which have remained the same.

Despite that, nobody from the police, medical examiner”s office or sheriff”s office contacted her family.

Police officers came to her father”s house last year looking for Miss Williams, apparently on a warrant for a probation violation issued two years after her death, Mr. Pryor said.

The missing-person report wasn”t cross-checked with death investigations, Maj. McCoy said. Under a new system, cross-checks are automatic and Richmond police make a priority of finding next of kin and notifying them of deaths within 24 hours, he said.

Louise Williams isn”t satisfied with the explanation police gave her about the delay involving her daughter”s death.

“They just looked at me like I was stupid,” she said.

Her daughter left behind a son, now 16, and a daughter, now 11.

“She was lovely,” Miss Williams said. “A beautiful, smart, intelligent girl.”

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