During her husband’s memorial service at Wylie Funeral Homes in Baltimore, Demetra Street sat in the front row, wearing a brown striped pantsuit. About 25 people watched as she sang “His Eye Is on the Sparrow” in memory of Ivan Street. In the room was a framed photograph of the man. Beside it was an urn.
But immediately after the January service ended, a funeral employee allegedly took the urn and hid it away, according to a lawsuit Street filed in early August. When Street asked the funeral home to turn over Ivan’s ashes, she says the staff refused.
That was because Ivan’s ashes were not in the urn, Street alleges. Ivan’s body, she claims she later learned, was actually buried at Baltimore’s Mount Zion Cemetery three days earlier at the request of another woman claiming to be the man’s wife.
In her lawsuit, Street alleges that Wylie Funeral Homes conducted two services for Ivan Street — one for her and one for the other woman — and pocketed both payments. She is now suing the business for $8.5 million, saying it breached its contract with her and made false representations to make a profit.
“It’s a really sad situation,” Street’s lawyer, Alex Coffin, told The Washington Post. “It’s tough enough losing a loved one.”
Wylie Funeral Homes did not respond to a request for comment. But the funeral home’s president, Brandon Wylie, told the Baltimore Sun that he denies Street’s claims.
“Due to restrictions imposed by our confidentiality requirements and the existence of pending litigation, we are not at liberty to disclose all of the information relevant to this matter,” Wylie told the Sun. “However, we vehemently deny the claims advanced by Ms. Street and assert that the underlying matter was handled with the utmost sensitivity toward the loved ones of the deceased.”
On Jan. 9, Ivan Street died suddenly from congestive heart failure at 67, according to the lawsuit. Demetra and Ivan were separated and living apart at the time, Coffin said. Records reviewed by The Post show that, legally, Demetra Street was Ivan’s wife at the time of his death.
Demetra went to the funeral home on Jan. 13, identified Ivan’s body and provided her marriage certificate to prove she was next of kin. Street then entered into a $2,500 contract for Ivan’s cremation and a memorial service with the funeral home.
Shortly after, however, another woman allegedly told the funeral home she was Ivan’s wife. She provided the funeral home with a marriage license from October 1997 that was lacking a seal, according to the lawsuit, which claims she insisted that Ivan be buried.
The funeral home’s employees then notified Street that another woman was claiming to be Ivan’s wife. Street, the lawsuit claims, told them to ignore the woman, who she said had no authority to make changes to the funeral plans.
But the funeral home decided to follow the other woman’s instructions instead and bury Ivan, Street claims. When Street protested to one of the owners by phone — identified in the lawsuit as “Mr. Wylie” — he allegedly told her: “So, what are you going to do about it?”
Shortly after, however, the funeral home appeared to make an about-face. A staffer notified Street they would, in fact, reject the other woman’s instructions to bury Ivan and schedule a cremation and memorial service as Street requested.
So Ivan’s memorial commenced. Programs were printed identifying Demetra Street as Ivan’s wife. The photo and urn were placed for all to see.
But despite Street’s “repeated requests that she receive Ivan’s ashes, Defendants refused to allow her or anyone else to obtain the ashes or to see the funerary urn once the Memorial Service had concluded,” the lawsuit states.
It was only days later that Street claims she found out why the request was denied. A funeral home staffer allegedly sent her an email referencing a “resting location at Mt. Zion Cemetery.” Confused, Street contacted the funeral home, and Mr. Wylie allegedly told her the funeral home had, in fact, buried Ivan in the cemetery. When Street expressed her discontent, Wylie allegedly brushed her off and hung up the phone.
The urn that sat at the center of her husband’s memorial turned out to be a “sham,” the lawsuit says.
“On information and belief,” the lawsuit states, “the Funeral Home double charged the bereaved parties by [billing] … for the cost of a casket, plot, and burial.”
Ivan and Demetra Street were married in Baltimore in April 2016, according to a copy of the marriage certificate, which The Post obtained from Coffin and verified with a Baltimore Circuit Court clerk. Although Ivan and Demetra had begun divorce proceedings in 2018, they were not completed before the man’s death, according to court records.
The Post was unable to determine the relationship between Ivan Street and the other woman, if any, and Coffin said he did not have that information, either. The woman could not be reached for comment. The Post is not naming her since her identity was not independently verified.
The other woman “may have believed she was the wife,” Coffin said, “but she failed to produce a marriage certificate with a seal on it.”
Nevertheless, the lawsuit says, the other woman posted a note on Ivan’s remembrance page on Jan. 20.
“To the memory of my beloved husband,” she wrote. “You were my best friend. The many loving memories I have of the [time] we shared will forever comfort me in your absence. … You will be sorely missed my love.”