BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - A bizarre case of mistaken identity left members of one Louisiana family skeptical after they received a phone call from a man claiming to be their recently-deceased relative.
A 54-year-old man believed to have been killed in a traffic accident is in fact alive. Even his family thought they recognized the man killed in the crash.
A man was hit by a truck while trying to cross Airline Highway near Victoria on the night of Nov. 2. The victim died from his injuries. He was initially identified as Terry Royce.
According to the Baton Rouge Police Department, an EMS worker thought they recognized Royce after picking him up on the streets a couple of weeks ago. Police checked a photo in their system against the deceased on the scene and it appeared to be a match.
Royce has been hospitalized at Earl K. Long Medical Center since Oct. 30, after he says he was mugged and blacked out.
"I kept trying to think I had someone out there," said Terry Royce.
He called his family when he was finally able to do so, but by then everyone thought he was dead, so Royce had to convince his family of who he was.
"About three of them said, 'You're dead,'" Royce explained. "And I said, 'I am not dead. I'm sitting right here talking to y'all.'"
For the last week, they've been on an unbelievable ride. Cindy Royce identified the man she thought was her brother at a funeral home where he was supposed to be cremated. She said his face was badly bruised and disfigured.
"The police told me it was Terry, the coroner told me it was Terry, the funeral director told me it looked like him," said Cindy Royce. "So, I was convinced it was Terry. It looked like him, but I just got hysterical and had to walk out."
Days later, her family got the unbelievable phone call from Terry.
"It was just a miracle when we found out. When I walked into the room, I just went to pieces and I said, 'Praise God!' I told him I said, 'You don't know what I've been through these last few days.'"
Members of the Royce family are grateful the real Terry is alive, but they're disappointed such a huge mistake could happen.
Investigators used the fingerprints of the person who died in the accident to identify him Monday. They said he's a 50-year-old homeless man. His name has not yet been released.
Cindy Royce said co-workers and community members donated money to help with funeral costs, but since her brother is alive, she will return all of the donations.