Pueblo family forced to bury twice

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Last Updated: 3 years

The family of a deaf Laguna Pueblo woman was forced to hold two burial ceremonies for her because of a state oversight.

Alicia Waseta, 21, was dragged to death last September as she was crossing a street near the New Mexico School for the Deaf in Santa Fe, where she had recently graduated.

Her body was returned for burial later in the month but the state Office of the Medical Investigator (OMI) didn’t inform the family that her heart had been taken out.

The family found out two months later when an OMI employee called to ask if the agency could keep Waseta’s heart for medical research.
The heart was removed during an autopsy, which goes against Pueblo beliefs, which was conducted as part of what the OMI said was a criminal investigation.

Medical examiners were also trying to determine if a heart condition Waseta had contributed to her death, a letter to the family later stated. The heart was returned and buried alongside Waseta’s body.

The car which struck Waseta was driven by Marcelino Toersbijns, a Bureau of Indian Affairs criminal investigator. No charges are being brought against him.

The Waseta family is suing the OMI and is planning to sue the Department of Interior as well.

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