News 12 First at Five / Monday, March 12, 2013
NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. (WRDW) -- Angela Wooden of Aiken looks pretty good for a dead woman.
"Well, for the past five months, I've been dead," she told News 12.
Last week, the single mother went to get food stamps at the Department of Social Services in Aiken, but something was wrong.
"Well, I called DSS to see why my food stamps wasn't on and come to find out," she told us, "I was dead."
What came next was a royal run-around. A visit to the Department of Health and Environmental Control in Aiken and phone calls to Vital Records in Columbia didn't bring her back to life. But then, she called the Aiken County Sheriff's Office.
"Umm, hi. I just found out yesterday. It's a mind-blower. You sitting down? I'm dead," Wooden told the secretary, who was shocked at first.
Ultimately, she talked to Sgt. John Baker, who spent hours resolving the problem.
"I really applaud Officer Baker, because if it wasn't for him, I wouldn't even know what was going on," Wooden said.
What was going on is actually surprising. After hours of calls, Sgt. Baker found that a funeral home near Clemson, Brown-Oglesby Funeral Home, made a typo. Wooden's Social Security number was put on an Oconee County man's death certificate. An Internet search shows the Seneca man died on Oct. 22 of last year. He sold paintings in the Upstate.
"Hopefully, we have proved that this lady is actually alive, not deceased, and there was a typo on the case," said Capt. Troy Elwell with the Aiken County Sheriff's Office.
The funeral home has since sent Wooden a letter of apology, but as she waits for the corrections to clear, she and her daughter are rationing food.
According to Elwell, at first, the funeral director asked Sgt. Baker to arrest Wooden for identity theft. Ultimately, the Oconee County coroner was able to determine that the funeral director was the one who was in the wrong.
"It was off by one number. They messed up my life for one number, and now, I have to deal with the consequences," Wooden said.
Meanwhile, she wants answers from the state, so something like this never happens again to anyone.
"I want my life back. I want my life back. If I can have my life back, I'll have a lot," Wooden said tearfully.
What's even more frightening is what she found out. Apparently, the DHEC told her they don't verify Social Security numbers when they file a death certificate. DHEC told News 12 they have a computer system that let's them know if there's a problem, but Wooden says that certainly didn't work in this case.