Southfield fire chief says woman falsely declared dead had vitals checked 3 times during EMS visit

The Southfield Fire Chief labeled an incident where a 20-year-old woman found alive at a funeral home after emergency responders declared her dead "unique and unsettling."

Providing the department's first update into an investigation regarding a case of mispronouncement of death on Wednesday, Chief Johnny Menifee detailed the steps taken Sunday morning when paramedics responded to a 9-1-1 call about a woman said to be unresponsive and not breathing.

A series of events took place between 7:27 and 8:38 a.m. that involved three separate instances of paramedics assessing the status of Timesha Beauchamp and determining there were no signs of life. 

"They checked her vital signs on three separate occasions, each time Ms. Beauchamp didn't show any signs of life," Menifee said. "At each intersection with medical science, our paramedics and the patient showed no signs of life."

Life-saving procedures began at 7:35 after emergency personnel arrived and continued for approximately 30 minutes. At 8:09, the Southfield Fire Department reported their findings to Providence Hospital to a physician.

As the fire department cleared the scene, Menifee said a family member approached one of the officials and told her they heard the woman breathing. The fire department reassessed her and came to the same conclusion.

Then, a family member told a Southfield police officer they felt a heartbeat coming from Beauchamp. The police department came back in and reassessed her again and for the third time, no signs of life were detected.

After the police department contacted the Oakland County Medical Examiner's Office and reported their findings, they cleared the scene.

"Ultimately, what transpired with Ms. Beauchamp is unique and unsettling," Menifee said. "We know There's evidence out there that this sort of thing has happened before, but we are still investigating to determine what happened on that Sunday."

After emergency crews left, the family called the James H. Cole Home for Funerals and had Beauchamp's body taken away. Later on Sunday, the staff at the funeral home confirmed the 20-year-old was still breathing and called emergency crews.

RELATED: Woman found alive at Detroit funeral home after she was declared dead

Much remains unknown about what or why crews were unable to register signs of life in the 20-year-old. Four members of the Southfield Fire department, two firefighters and two basic level paramedics have been placed on paid administrative leave pending an investigation by the city.

"They feel terrible," Menifee said. "I feel terrible this has happened."

The fire chief also sought to dispel false rumors that had circulated after Beauchamp was declared dead, which he attributed to the legal counsel the woman's family had hired after the case.

"Geoffrey Fieger has made several inaccurate statements," he said.

Beauchamp was not taken away in a body bag. The fire department did in fact contact a doctor. The police department did contact a medical examiner. 

Menifee affirms the crews followed standard medical procedure, despite an ambulance not being called. 

He also wasn't aware of the status of Beauchamp.

"The main theory is after we are done doing CPR as medical providers and administering medications to try to revive the patient, it's thought after we stop, then those medications may have time to circulate to the arterial system to the heart," said Dr. David Donaldson.

Donaldson says Lazarus Syndrome is extremely rare with less than 50 reported cases. He says it usually happens around 10 minutes after a patient is declared dead. 

"There have been cases described hours later, just the majority of them occur within the first 10 minutes," the doctor said.  "It's extremely rare, I know there are fears of being pronounced deceased and you're not and what transpired after but exceedingly rare. But again I've never seen it, I would not be overly concerned about it." 

Donaldson says he doesn't know the specifics of this case so he is unable to comment on if he believes Beauchamp experienced Lazarus Syndrome.