CHICAGO – Cindy Howard’s son, Curtis Brown, was 47 years old when a heart attack claimed his life a week ago.
The sudden death of the father of 12 was a surprise to family members. An even bigger shock awaited.
“My sister called me and said, ‘Call the funeral director because she said my son is missing,'” said Brown’s aunt, Sharon Spearman.
Curtis’ body was in the care of Collins and Stone Funeral Home in Rockford and was sitting in the business’ grey Chrysler on Saturday, which according to police, was an easy target for a thief.
“Don’t leave vehicles unsecured, running and doors unlocked,” Rockford police said. “Just so happens this one had a body in it.”
The vehicle turned up Sunday in Chicago on the 1400 block of E. 87th St., but Curtis Brown’s body was not inside. The 47-year-old’s body was found Monday evening in an alley along the 8200 block of S. Manistee. Authorities released an image of the man they believe swiped the van while the Brown family says they were working through paperwork with the funeral director, Brandy Collins.
Speaking out publicly for the first time since the traumatic ordeal, Cindy Howard said she didn’t learn that her son was missing until hours before he was found.
“They found my baby. He was dumped in an alley butt-naked. He had on no clothes,” Howard told WGN News during a phone interview.
“We didn’t find out about the van being stolen until [Monday] because I live in Mississippi,” she added.
The family alleges that Collins even stopped taking their calls.
“I called [Brandy] and she didn’t answer, so I used my granddaughter’s phone and she answered and then hung up,” Spearman said. “I texted her and I’m like, ‘Brandy, that is unprofessional, you have to understand the hurt my sister is going through.’ She just lost her son twice, once in death and now he’s stolen.”
The family has since learned that Collins was recently fined $10,000 for “unprofessional conduct, failure to account for personal property, and aiding and assisting unlicensed practice” and is on probation through May of 2023.
“She needs to be shut down,” Spearman said. “I have no remorse for her. She’s not even answering the phone.”
Collins and Stone Funeral Home did not immediately respond to a phone message seeking comment. The family says the morgue in Rockford is assisting with shipping Curtis’ body back to Mississippi on Wednesday morning.
The search for the suspect linked to the vehicle theft continues. Anyone with information is asked to call Rockford police.