Jury decides against San Antonio funeral home, awards millions to Julie Mott Family

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A Bexar County jury took less than three hours to award $8 million in damages to the parents of a woman whose body disappeared from a casket at a San Antonio funeral home.

Julie Mott died Aug. 8, 2015. She was to be cremated after her funeral Aug. 15, 2015. The next day, employees of MPII, which does business as Mission Park Funeral Chapels and Cemeteries, discovered her body missing from a casket at Mission Park North on Cherry Ridge. Her parents, plaintiffs Timothy and Sharlotte Mott, are suing MPII, alleging that their daughter’s body was lost while in their care.




Attorneys for the Motts had asked the jury to award their clients $10 million — $5 million apiece for past and future mental anguish experienced because of the loss of their daughter’s body. Experts testified that financial compensation would not allow either parent to experience closure and would leave them stuck in the grieving process.

The jury received the case just before 12:30 p.m.

The funeral business, through its owner, Robert “Dick” Tips, and his wife, Kristin, company president, had denied wrongdoing and have accused Bill Wilburn, Mott’s ex-boyfriend, of stealing the body.

The body has never been found and no arrests have been made in the case, which is still under investigation by San Antonio police.

“MPII lost Julie Mott’s body,” plaintiffs’ attorney Alex Katzman told the jury in his closing argument. “The company claims someone came in and stole it. Whether they lost or mishandled it, it really doesn’t matter. They had custody and control, and they lost her body.”

Katzman argued the company had no chain of command records, did not properly train its employees, and, unbeknownst to the Motts, the funeral used Beyer and Beitel Mortuary Services, a third-party contractor, for embalming purposes.

He went on to quote the funeral business’ motto: “When you trust your loved ones to us, they never leave our care, custody or control. … They made a promise. This is about what they were required to do,” he said.

Defense attorney Ricardo Reyna said there indeed was a theft, that the police investigated it that way, and the officer wrote it in his report.

“The greater weight of credible evidence in this case is that for more than 100 years, they’ve taken care of San Antonio families, and there’s never been a body stolen,” Reyna told the jury.

He showed a copy of a contract that the Motts signed when they agreed on services, noting that the documents stated that another company would do the embalming.

“Even Fred Beyer said at one time or another, all funeral homes use them,” Reyna said. “Using B&B didn’t cause the remains to be stolen.”

Reyna told the jury should they wish for MPII to award anything, it should be for what a mental health expert said both Motts need — intense therapy for three years each, which lawyer Ricardo Reyna said would amount to $125,000.

In his rebuttal to the defense, plaintiff attorney Ron Salazar asked the jury, “Is 125,000 the value of a destroyed life?”

“Sharlotte won’t leave her home. She goes to work, she drives home and holds the sleeve of Julie Mott’s jacket. He (Tim) sits all day, waiting for a red bird,” Salazar said, recalling Timothy Mott’s testimony that he had read seeing a cardinal after a loved one has passed means they are visiting.

The case was heard in the 131st Civil District Court, presided by Judge Norma Gonzales.



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