Lankford takes plea deal in funeral home case
May 26—CLARK COUNTY — Disgraced Jeffersonville funeral home owner Randy Lankford took a plea deal on Friday afternoon that frees him from the Clark County Jail and requires him to pay restitution to families who entrusted him with funeral care for their loved ones.
But for some victims there's no amount of money that's an antidote to their pain.
"It's been tough, but I do forgive him for what he did, and I hope he can find forgiveness," said Derrick Kessinger.
As part of Friday's agreement Lankford pleaded guilty to more than 40 Level 6 felonies for theft.
He's required to pay restitution to a number of families affected by the case and has been released to serve the rest of his proposed sentence on house arrest. People who are receiving restitution are entitled to sums of either $450, $650, $900 or $1,000, according to the plea deal.
A formal sentencing hearing is planned for June 23 in Clark Circuit Court 3.
On Friday Judge N. Lisa Glickfield said Lankford's proposed sentence is 12 years for his charges. He's able to serve part of the sentence on home incarceration.
Kessinger used Lankford Family Funeral Home for services for three family members, including his fiancé. When he visited the funeral home last year he noticed things seemed off, specifically the smell of the facility.
The plea deal was surprising to Kessinger.
"Just shocked, really, speechless, I didn't expect that," Kessinger said.
Last July authorities raided the funeral home on Middle Road in Jeffersonville after neighbors complained of a smell. They discovered the remains of 31 people, in various stages of decomposition, and the cremated remains of 17 people.
The only criminal charges Lankford has faced connected to this case are for theft. He's accused of not returning cremated remains to people who paid for them or giving people remains that weren't of their loved ones.
There are still civil cases pending against Lankford.
Attorneys had told the News and Tribune previously that there are likely no laws in Indiana that allow for him to be charged for the more egregious allegations in the case.
Cynthia Cape said she used Lankford's funeral home for her husband's services. Her husband was at the Veterans Affairs Hospital in Louisville and they referred her to Lankford's business for funeral services. Her husband passed away in April 2022.
"Mr. Lankford was compassionate," Cape said, adding that changed after she paid for the services for her husband.
Last year around Memorial Day she contacted the funeral home asking where her husband's ashes were and said she got the runaround.
She got them back a few weeks ago, exactly a year after her husband's death.
"It's not something you'd want anyone to go through," Cape said.
Clark County Prosecutor Jeremy Mull said the goal of the plea bargain was to get justice for families involved with case.
"This was a case where there were so many charges that we had to come to some sort of resolution that got justice now for these people and sent him to jail and ordered him to pay restitution," Mull said, adding the plea agreement was "the amount of justice" the state could get in the case.
Mull said that thanks to a backlog of cases due to the COVID pandemic, cases are categorized by age and are stacked up, so if they have to go to trial it could take years before that happens.
"So it's important as a prosecutor in a case to say can we get this resolved, can we get convictions can we get an executed jail sentence...and do that on a timely basis," Mull said. "So we were able to do that in the case and we are pleased with that."
Mull said steps were being taken to make sure Lankford couldn't have a license to provide funeral services in Indiana again.
Lankford has not apologized or addressed the families involved in this case in court yet, but his attorney, Tyler Miller, said to expect it at the sentencing hearing.
"It's such an unfortunate situation and Mr. Lankford truly does feel very remorseful. He's very remorseful and he's going to make a statement at the sentencing hearing to address all these victims, clearly can't take back what happened and he's accepted responsibility and hopes it brings some closure to these victims," Miller said. "...he's hopeful accepting responsibility for his action can help the families find a little bit of closure. He is remorseful."