KC police mistakenly tell mother her son died in crash — then get mixed up again

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. --  A dark-colored SUV careened off Elmwood Avenue into a telephone pole and a tree Monday night shortly before 11 p.m.

About 90 minutes later Thelma Toney got a knock at her door from a Kansas City police officer.

"He said he had some bad news, and that's when my heart just went to beating fast. I had to sit down, and he said he passed away. He got killed, and I just went to hollering," Toney said.

The officer told her 44-year-old Richard Lawrence was dead. Toney started calling family in the middle of the night to give them the apparent bad news, including his daughter.

"When I dialed the number, and they answered the phone, I couldn't say nothing because I started hollering, and my husband had to tell them what was going on," Toney said of the frantic moment.

After a family gathering to grieve, Toney had plans to go to the morgue to identify the body Tuesday morning when her daughter's phone rang.

"She went to screaming, so I came downstairs running. She said, 'Mama, mama, Richard's alive!'" Toney said.

Minutes later it wasn't police but her son Richard at her front door.

"He came, and I just hugged him, and I just held him, and I just cried, and I just cried. It just was a miracle," she said.

So what happened?

Toney said she saw her son driving the very same vehicle that crashed into the tree earlier that evening. It still had his license plates on the SUV when it crashed. What she didn't know is Lawrence had sold the SUV to another man not long before the deadly crash.

Late Tuesday afternoon, Kansas City police correctly identified the driver killed in the crash as 36-year-old Christopher Miller of Kansas City, Missouri.

Earlier Tuesday, nearly 24 hours after Toney said she first notified Kansas City police of its error, a police spokesman identified the crash victim as Lawrence in a media release.

Toney said she can't understand how either monumental mix-up happened.

"They should check more thoroughly than what they did. They shouldn't put no parents through that," Toney said.

As a result, Lawrence has spent the past day letting people know he's not dead.

"When she saw that name pop up, her daddy's name, she answered that call and she said, 'Daddy you are alive?' He said, 'Baby, I'm alive,'" Toney recalled of Lawrence's call with his daughter.

Lawrence's mom said her heart goes out to the Miller family because she unfortunately now knows exactly what they're feeling.



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