Jesse Jones: Family pushes for answers after Lyman cemetery botches funeral for 7-week-old

LYMAN, Wash. — A mother who lost her seven-week-old baby to sudden infant death syndrome says a town cemetery botched the funeral.

In November, Eric and Brittany Eagan buried their seven-week-old child Nixon in the Town of Lyman cemetery. That was after funeral service they say was handled horribly by a former town employee, from the lowering of Nixon’s handmade casket to Eric scrambling for tools.

“We had to use straps for people’s trucks to get it done,” Eric Eagan said. “My brother and a few other family friends just went door to door asking anybody for help.”

The family tells us that Eric Eagan and others attending the funeral knocked on doors in search of shovels to bury Nixon.

“I hope to God this is not going to happen to another family,” said Brittany Eagan.

The Eagans live in Stanwood but chose the Town of Lyman cemetery because Brittany had family buried there. She contacted Tari Dexter, the owner of funeral home American Cremation and Casket Alliance, to speak with the town about burying Nixon.

Dexter says she contacted former town clerk and treasurer Debbie Boyd, asking what was needed to hold a funeral at the cemetery.

But there was a problem.

“The person or the company that they usually use for opening, closing and lowering did not have a device small enough for Nixon’s casket,” Dexter said (for context, “opening and closing” is the act of digging and covering a grave).

Dexter says Boyd made an offer to perform those tasks, while Boyd said she volunteered because she had a baby that had died and understood the couple’s pain.

“That is why her and her husband assist with little ones, and so, they’re the ones who assist with opening and closing, and lowering and everything,” said Dexter.

Despite the promise of volunteering, Boyd reportedly never showed at the funeral. Her husband did dig the grave and completed some finish work. Brittany Eagan says she didn’t know this was a volunteer offer.

Boyd says the town doesn’t staff funerals and uses a third-party service for burials. She also says Dexter, as the owner of a funeral home, should have known that.

“It was never, ever supposed to be us that was going to do that,” Boyd said.

But Dexter disagrees, saying she was never given any other choices by Boyd, or the Town of Lyman, to have a third party do any of the work.

“She did not give us the options, and as a funeral home, we go by what they say,” Dexter said.

Since the cemetery is run by the town, we asked Lyman Mayor Eddie Hills what he knew. He wouldn’t comment on the case except to say that “Ms. Boyd made a lot of promises personally but the town doesn’t do those things.”

Boyd has since left her job with the town.

After the funeral, Boyd sent a text to Eagan saying, “It was probably me that dropped the ball on that lowering because we had never done that.”

“I did not realize that there was no one there that could help in anyway,” she continued. “Again, I apologize I’m so sorry.”

“I’m not asking for a pity party,” Brittany Eagan said. “I am asking to bury my seven-week-old son correctly.”

Now Nixon’s grave sits with a small patch of town provided grass that doesn’t cover his small plot.