We’ve been collecting information on Houston cemeteries for almost 40 years. Our files are full of newspaper clippings, photographs, oral histories and magazine articles to mention a few. As the years have passed it’s interesting to see how few factual details appear in these sources these days. For a variety of reasons information has become more confidential. We doubt the following tale would have disclosed so much from so many sources were it published today.
In June of 1970 the Houston Post ran an article titled “Bizarre Burial Probed.” In July 1969 Joseph Flowerbird, a Kiowa Indian from New Mexico, died in Ben Taub Hospital from complications from a wound inflicted in a knife fight. Earlier that year Thomas Joseph Connors passed away from natural causes at the same hospital. Both bodies were transferred to the University of Texas Dental Branch in Houston where “scientific use of anatomic specimens is made.”
Flowerbird was transferred to Brookwood Funeral Home, a company with a contract with the City to bury paupers. Connors was also sent to Brookwood.
In the spring of 1970 the State Board of Morticians received an unsigned letter stating that Flowerbird’s head had been sewn onto Connors body before interment. The Board referred the matter to Harris County Medical Examiner Joseph Jachimczky for investigation. After receiving permission from the Board and the Texas Attorney General’s office, Jachimczky exhumed Flowerbird’s casket from Rosewood Memorial Park in Humble, Texas, a Houston suburb. His report stated the head “did not belong to the same body.”
The Medical Examiner located Flowerbird’s sister in New Mexico and provided the rather odd details of the situation. Not having the means to handle a funeral she released the body to Harris County and requested a “proper” burial for her brother. Her wishes were granted. No one knows what happened to Flowerbird’s body or Connors’ head.