EAST STROUDSBURG, MONROE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — Hesan Yassin’s family found out he was dead after his sister Sara Raybuck Googled his name.
“I just threw my phone. I couldn’t even believe it what I was looking at. I just threw it across…I was in bed. I sat straight up and just threw my phone. I couldn’t believe it. I just started hyperventilating and screaming. I was not…I was very shocked,” Raybuck said.
Yassin took his own life in December. He was found at the Old Market Street Square Railroad Station in Wilkes-Barre. His family learned of his death more than a month later from an online obituary in a local newspaper.
“Why didn’t we know? Why weren’t we informed?” said Marwa Schoch, Yassin’s cousin, said.
Schoch says there were forms of identification with his personal belongings found at the station.
“They had access to his ID, which listed my mom’s address in Stroudsburg. They had access to prescriptions which listed my mom’s address in Stroudsburg. They had ways of contacting us and they did not,” Schoch said.
Schoch says they also had his phone and phone charger which could have been used to track Yassin’s family down.
“In all honesty I don’t think they put any effort into letting us know at all,” Schoch said.
Raybuck flew from her home in Ohio and met her family in Stroudsburg. They then collected Yassin’s belongings and wanted to visit his grave. Yassin was buried at Maple Hill Cemetery. His family tells Eyewitness News they spent 15 minutes looking for his unmarked grave.
“We really don’t know exactly where he is. He’s in an unclaimed grave site,” Mona Ahmed, Yassin’s cousin, said.
“To be thrown in a cardboard box, to be put in the back of the cemetery with other people who were not claimed. That’s not fair. He had a family,” Schoch said.
Schoch says Yassin wanted to be buried next to his brother, Abdul, who died in 2016. She says Yassin had been unable to cope with Abdul’s death which lead to an altercation with police and an arrest for drug possession.
Yassin’s family wants to fulfill his wishes and bury him with his family in Stroudsburg but are unable to do so immediately due to the conditions of the ground during winter.
“Pretty much because of how they buried him in a cardboard box, his body would deteriorate and we wouldn’t be able to go through the process of giving him an Islamic burial,” Schoch said.
In a statement to Eyewitness News, the Luzerne County Coroner office says the office took six steps to find Yassin’s next of kin. They ‘did a basic internet search, attempted to contact Yassin’s prior place of employment without success, contacted Wilkes-Barre Police Department for next of kin listed on Yassin’s previous arrests.’ The statement also says they ‘contacted Catholic Social Services without success and put a news advertisement in the Wilkes-Barre and Stroudsburg market newspapers. Schoch says in the end, her family was still never contacted.
“It’s really traumatizing. We’re already trying to cope with losing him but then to not be able to bury him next to his brother, his grandmother, his grandfather… it’s really hard on all of us. It’s a lot for us to cope with,” Schoch said.
Here is the full statement from the coroner’s office: An area of responsibility for the Luzerne County Coroner’s Office is the matter of unclaimed bodies and notification of next of kin.
There is a current trend occurring nationally in which coroners and medical examiners are seeing an increase in unclaimed bodies due to the opiate crisis and related social concerns.
An important aspect of dealing with unclaimed bodies is the successful notification of next of kin, for the purpose of giving proper notification of death of a love one and the family having an opportunity to claim the deceased.
The Luzerne County Coroner’s Office recognizes the importance of identification of next of kin in unclaimed deceased case. Next of kin search will be reasonable and as detailed as time and circumstances permit. The search for next of kin is occasionally complicated by the circumstances of the death and the deceased local and community links or lack of the same.
In this particular case, the Coroner’s Office did the following:
- Basic internet search
- Attempted to contact prior place employment without success
- Contacted WBPD for next of kin listed on the decedent’s previous arrests
- Contacted Catholic Social Services without success (a letter was found in his possession from Catholic Service Services)
- News advertisement in Wilkes-Barre market
- News advertisement in Stroudsburg market
The Coroner’s Office is in a continual process of evaluating its procedures to ensure that they are effective and efficient. We are presently enhancing our abilities to locate and give notification to next of kin. These updates include using computer resources, such as CLEAR, to locate next of kin, utilization of social media, and creating a web page on the county web site listing the names of unclaimed deceased and information regarding unidentified deceased.