A grieving Georgia mother said she feels like she lost her son twice — first to a tragic drug overdose and then to the negligence of a mail courier company that lost his ashes during a recent shipping.
Tangenika Lee’s son, Deontray, was only 15 years old when he overdosed from a fentanyl cocktail in 2020. After memorializing his life, the family had the teen’s body cremated and then placed his ashes in a box until a custom urn could be made.
However, the ashes were never transferred into a personalized urn.
Years after his death, Lee, who lives in the Atlanta suburb of Hiram, shipped the ashes via UPS to a sister in Connecticut who was making the urn. The shipment was sent at the start of January 2024 with a promised delivery date of Jan. 10, but it never arrived.
Despite all tracking efforts, it became evident that Deontray’s remains were lost in transit, and the mother is heartbroken.
“If you ask me, it’s just like a repeating nightmare,” Lee said, according to KFVS 12.
While Lee was upset, she attempted to figure out what happened to the ashes, calling the police to try to open an investigation and then filing a missing package report with UPS, returning to the facility where she mailed the package.
“I went inside of the store and pulled cameras from January the 8th, and they came back out to tell me that that package actually had left their facility, and it was nothing that they could do about it,” Lee said.
A customer service rep told the mother that her parcel was last tracked to a UPS distribution center in Connecticut. The mother said in an interview with WSB-TV that she was going to travel to the state and look for herself.
Lee has taken to her Facebook to garner support from families and friends, replacing her profile picture with the UPS logo. She also posted receipts and the tracking slip, which showed something was wrong in the delivery process.
“I don’t want no $135 check. I want my son’s ashes back,” Lee wrote on her Facebook page.
UPS did not deny that Deontray’s ashes were lost and offered a $135.16 check from its corporate office as compensation for the package never arriving.
Lee said when she received it in the mail, she “lost it” and “started crying.” Distraught and offended, she said she is never going to cash the check.
While the check may have been small, UPS spokesperson Jim Mayer said the reimbursement was on scale with the rate for lost items based on the estimated value of the package selected when the service was being purchased.
“If you ship a package by UPS and you don’t buy any additional insurance, it’s covered for $100,” Mayer told Atlanta Black Star, adding, “The additional $35 is the cost of the shipping.”
The company’s website also reflects this policy.
To make this matter more complicated, Mayer also said that as a business, they do not accept shipments of human remains and that Lee declared the package’s contents on the form as “clothes.”
Lee posted a copy of the tracking number and receipt which shows she only described the goods as “clothes” and sent it via ground residential at $34.94, paying a processing fee of 22 cents.
Mayer said the company extends its “deepest sympathy to the family” and will “continue to make extensive efforts to locate the lost package.”
“We don’t have it in our possession, but we are looking for it,” Mayer said. “It’s certainly unfortunate. I wish we’d known what was in the box because we would not have accepted it.”
Atlanta Black Star reached out to Lee for comments regarding the incident.
“UPS, where is Deon?” Lee asked. “I won’t sit down until they hire the appropriate team to help me.”