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California parents stunned to find out dead baby's body was cremated

MONTEREY PARK, Calif. -- How does a healthy newborn baby end up dead in the hospital a day after she is born?

That is a question a grieving Southern California couple wants answered, CBS Los Angeles reports.

Moreover, compounding their ordeal, was news that the baby was cremated without their permission.

Auroaanne De La Torre-Johnston was born on May 27 inside Beverly Hospital in Montebello, California.

“She was in perfect health,” said her father, Michael Johnston. “Very alert, very awake - she was the loudest baby in the ward, apparently.”

On May 28, the baby was dead.

Johnston said he and the baby’s mother, Yvette De La Torre, are waiting for the coroner’s office to tell them the official cause of death.

“We have no clue,” said Johnston. “It’s devastating.”

The sad story doesn’t end there. Johnston said when he and his wife called the coroner last week to check on the progress of their findings, he couldn’t believe what he was told.

“They sent her to USC to be cremated, and her ashes are now in the USC morgue,” Johnston said.

He and his wife said they were stunned into disbelief.

“I was like, ‘Where is my daughter? What did you do with my daughter?’” he said.

Johnston said the coroner’s office told the couple that it left a message on their answering machine saying if they didn’t pick up their baby within 30 days, the body would be disposed of. The couple said they never got that message.

A spokesman for the coroner’s office declined to comment, saying it can’t comment over concerns the coroner’s office could potentially face a lawsuit in this case.

“The fact that the coroner won’t be transparent and accountable really raises some questions here that I think only the Board of Supervisors or possibly the DA’s office can answer,” said Jamie Court, president of Consumer Watchdog in Santa Monica.

“I mean, this is the worst pain a human being can feel, losing a child. To not have an answer just is throwing salt in that wound, and then to dispose of the body before a family can make a choice about what to do with it and get more answers, it’s inhuman,” said Court.

Now all the parents have is one photo of their little girl.

It’s something Johnston said he looks at a lot.

“I can tell she had my hands,” he said, “I make sure I look at [the picture] every day.”

And he is left with the agonizing question: Why did she die?

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