Family battles state to bury young man killed in crash

Family battles state to bury young man killed in crash

DALLAS -- The tragic death of a 20-year-old man has led to a bitter custody battle between the state and the young man's biological family.

Friday, Foday Fofanah wants to properly say goodbye to his brother, James Fofanah, who was fatally struck by a vehicle when he stopped to help at a crash scene.

"I don't want a dime," Foday said. "I'm not doing this for money. I'm doing it because everybody has the right to bury their own."

Foday is originally from Sierra Leon, a country in West Africa. He said his family escaped violence and started a new life in Dallas. The oldest of 13 siblings, Foday served as the caretaker for his brother and sisters. It's a job a job he admits hasn't always been easy.

In 2011, Foday's brother, James, was removed from his home by CPS. According to a representative, he was removed due to "mistreatment by the caregiver."

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Foday said he had no choice but to place James in foster care. 

"[CPS] made me do it," he said. "They twisted my arm to do it. They bullied me to do it. That's what they've done."

In the past six years, Foday said James reconnected with his siblings and was going to college. Ten days ago, he was killed in an accident.

James died as a good Samaritan, but it wasn't until his death that his family realized he wasn't theirs.

"By law, a 20-year-old man should not be forced to be buried by the state when the family wants to burry their loved one," said Rev. Ronald Wright, of the organization Justice Seekers of Texas.

A CPS spokesperson said James was in what's called "extended foster care," meaning "CPS was legally Jame's family."

In an email to News 8, they added, "We’re hopeful that everyone who loved him will be able to say goodbye to him properly."

It's a fight the Fofanahs have taken to court. The family was able to block plans for a burial and Tuesday they'll plead their case before a judge.

"I have no fear," "I feel that I will bury my loved one and we'll give him the proper burial. I still feel that we are in a law country and I feel that the law will prevail."

© 2017 WFAA-TV


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