Lawsuit filed against funeral home accused of mishandling more than 30 bodies

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The Lankford Funeral Home and Family Center is shown in Jeffersonville on July 2, 2022.
The Lankford Funeral Home and Family Center is shown in Jeffersonville on July 2, 2022.

A lawsuit against Lankford Funeral Home has been filed on behalf of a couple who believe the facility did not properly handle their daughter's remains and lied about actions that had taken place, and an attorney in the case said he believes more families could join the case.

The lawsuit was filed Tuesday in Clark Circuit Court in Indiana by attorney Larry Wilder, in the aftermath of a police investigation that found 31 decomposing bodies and 16 post-cremation remains at the facility.

No criminal charges in the case have been filed at this time, Jeffersonville Police Maj. Isaac Parker said.

The new filing claims funeral home owner Randy Lankford told the parents of Nicole Lorey – an Elizabethtown, Kentucky woman who died on June 14 – that her body had been cremated but then told the family that an urn to carry her remains had not yet arrived at the facility before the police investigation, which took place Friday and Saturday.

"It is reasonably believed that Nicole's remains were not cremated," the lawsuit claims. "The family reasonably believe that Nicole's remains, along with thirty (30) other individuals were at the Funeral Home. The family reasonably believe that the deceased's remains were not properly cared for by the Funeral Home inasmuch as it is reasonably believed that they had begun to decompose."

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Claims made in a lawsuit represent just one side of a case. A call to Lankford Funeral Home seeking comment was unsuccessful, and Randy Lankford did not immediately respond to an email sent to his company address on Tuesday.

Parker announced Saturday the bodies had been found during a search at the facility, 3106 Middle Road. Police have been in contact with Lankford, Parker said Tuesday, and Clark County Prosecutor Jeremy Mull has said he will review the case once the investigation is completed and determine whether criminal charges are appropriate.

In an interview Tuesday, Wilder said his clients, Cynthia Faye Cooke and Jeffrey Lorey, have gone through a "horrible" experience in light of recent events. They had chosen to entrust their daughter's remains to the Jeffersonville funeral home based on a recommendation from the Hardin County (Kentucky) Coroner's Office, Wilder said, due to financial constraints.

"Cynthia can't have a conversation with me without breaking out in tears," Wilder said. "Her father, Jeff, likewise – and it's a lot of different emotions."

Nicole Lorey, an Elizabethtown woman who died on June 14, 2022. In a lawsuit, her parents allege Jeffersonville's Lankford Funeral Home mishandled her remains.
Nicole Lorey, an Elizabethtown woman who died on June 14, 2022. In a lawsuit, her parents allege Jeffersonville's Lankford Funeral Home mishandled her remains.

In interviews with other local media outlets, including WHAS, some Lankford Funeral Home clients have questioned whether cremated remains they'd received from the facility actually belonged to the bodies they entrusted to Lankford.

But Wilder said his clients never received an urn with their daughter's remains. Instead, the attorney said, they've received "nothing but the empty promises that this was going to happen."

"Lo and behold, they find out what everyone else has – that this gentleman was working in that building with 31 corpses."

Wilder said he plans to ask the court on Wednesday to consider making the case a class-action lawsuit, with his clients' estate serving as the class-action plaintiff and then "trying to consolidate the 47 different cases."

This story may be updated.

Lucas Aulbach can be reached at laulbach@courier-journal.com, 502-582-4649 or on Twitter @LucasAulbach.

This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: Lankford Funeral Home in Jeffersonville sued over handling of remains