DALLAS - The body of a 20-year-old man who was killed while trying to help a stranded motorist will be preserved until a judge decides who has the right to bury him.
James Fofanah died last week after being hit by a drunken driver on the LBJ Freeway in Garland. He had stopped to help a woman from Arkansas who was involved in a minor crash. Police said 23-year-old Ashlyn Hurley then slammed into them, killing them both.
"The service is off right now completely until this is resolved," explained Foday, James' biological dad.
James came to the U.S. as a young boy with relatives after they fled from Sierra Leone, Africa. After allegations of abuse in 2012, he wounded up in the state's custody as a foster child. Although he had “aged out” of the system, his biological family said Child Protective Services took custody of his body and arranged a funeral without involving them.
"You can't deprive a family of burying their loved one the way they want to," said Ike Emarum, the family's attorney. "Let's see how it goes, but we're very optimistic."
James' foster parent, Franklin Harris, is working with the family.
"We're going to honor him like the media has honored him and said he was a hero,” Harris said. “Then let that hero be with his family when he leaves here.”
A statement from CPS said in part, “This young man came into foster care as a child because he was mistreated by his caregivers to the point where his parents’ rights were terminated. CPS was legally his family."
But his biological family has a different account for the CPS action in 2012. They said he was a troubled teen who lashed out against his parents as they tried to discipline him.
Harris said James had changed and was becoming a responsible adult attending college and reconnected with his biological siblings. They aren't surprised he stopped to help at an accident scene.
James' birth parents filed an emergency injunction and on Thursday a judge agreed to a full hearing on Aug. 1. The body will be preserved until then.
CPS said the scheduled memorial service is on hold while the court issues are sorted.