The Massachusetts Medical Examiner's Office held the body of Jaimee Mendez for nearly five months. Because her family didn't have her body, or even a death certificate, they haven't been able to have a funeral or settle probate issues for her 6-year-old special needs son.
But now, they say they can finally say goodbye properly.
"She was kidnapped by the animal that did this to her, and then she was kidnapped by the medical examiner's office," said Mendez's uncle, James Bursey. "We're finally getting her back.
The latest news from around the state
It's a bittersweet victory for Bursey and Beatrice Mendez, but a victory all the same.
After holding her body for five months, the Massachusetts Medical Examiner is finally releasing the body of their niece.
"It's like a comfort to the heart. It really is like a comfort to the heart to know she's coming home," said Beatrice Mendez.
Twenty-five-year-old Jaimee Mendez first went missing in November of last year. The young mother's dismembered body washed up on a beach in Swampscott, Massachusetts, in January.
Her killer is still at large.
"I hope that the investigation is able to move along - that what they've been waiting so long for they have," said Beatrice Mendez. "But there's no guarantee that they do."
Jaimee Mendez's body is being released days after an necn investigation into a continued backlog at the ME's office. According to state data, as of last week there are more than 1,300 autopsy and more than 300 death certificate reports sitting in the office incomplete - some dating back seven years.
"It's not right," said Beatrice Mendez. "It's a completely unconscionable length of time that people are being held for."
"It's been going on for too long. Something needs to be done about it," said Bursey. "If you give them the right to do this to Jaimee, then you give them the right to do that to everybody else."
After a series of scandals rocked the ME's office over the last decade - missing corpses, bodies piled in storage facilities, remains labeled improperly - the office has made progress in reducing caseloads.
They now do fewer full-blown autopsies, opting instead to do less thorough external exams on cases where they feel the cause of death is obvious.
But that presents its own problems. In an accountability report to the legislature earlier this year, Chief Medical Examiner Henry Nields said the new way poses risks and might cause examiners to miss actual causes of death.
"I want Jaimee's case to make an impact. I want this case to come to light," said Beatrice Mendez. "To get in front of the governor, to get in front of the legislature to actually make a change.
The ME's office is working with the family to get Jaimee Mendez's body home in the next few days. But the autopsy results and the cause of death are still pending.
Prosecutors say the investigation into her murder is ongoing. The family plans to host a celebration of Jaimee Mendez's life on June 6.