Owner of Lankford Funeral Home, where 31 bodies were found, makes first court appearance

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About two weeks after police found 31 decomposing bodies and 16 post-cremation remains at a Jeffersonville funeral home, the home's owner made his first court appearance in relation to a lawsuit filed against the business on behalf of a family who believe their loved ones' remains were mishandled.

Randy Lankford, owner of Lankford Funeral Home, appeared before Judge Kyle Williams in Clark Circuit Court on Tuesday morning in response to the suit filed on behalf of a Kentucky woman's parents who believe their daughter's remains were allowed to decompose in an unrefrigerated facility and that they were lied to about what happened to her body.

Tuesday's hearing was largely a procedural process in which Lankford was questioned about his insurance policies and several pieces of documentation.

Claims made in a lawsuit represent just one side of a case. Multiple calls made to Lankford Funeral Home seeking comment were unsuccessful, and Randy Lankford did not respond to an email sent to his company address.

The lawsuit says Nicole Lorey died June 14, and her parents requested her body be cremated. When her parents continued to ask about her ashes, they were told an urn to carry them had not arrived at the facility yet, according to court documents. Her body is now believed to be one of the 31 bodies found in the funeral home July 2.

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.

Other bodies belonged to people who died as far back as March, Jeffersonville Police Maj. Isaac Parker said a day after the bodies were discovered.

It is unclear if any of the bodies have been positively identified through DNA - the Clark County Coroner's Office is handling that portion of the investigation and a request for comment was not readily available.

"The emotional anguish that these families are experiencing is impossible to describe," Larry Wilder, the attorney who filed the suit, said Monday ahead of the court appearance. Wilder said he plans to ask the court to consider making the case a class-action lawsuit to consolidate the 47 different cases tied to the funeral home.

Wilder alleges he's been in contact with about 20 families who used Lankford's services and believes their loved ones' remains were mishandled. That includes families who believe the cremains they received are not actually those of their loved one.

"Why he did what he did, who knows," Wilder said.

"(Lankford) abused his position of trust, he stole money from people with no regard for their emotional well-being ... and he continues to walk around free," Wilder added.

More: Infant bodies hidden in former funeral home shine a light on industry horrors

Two other attorneys have also filed suits for punitive damages against Lankford in Clark Circuit Court on behalf of five other families who allege wrongdoing by Lankford.

In three of those filings, family members are claiming they had presented the remains of their loved ones to be cremated and accused Lankford of "knowingly and intentionally presenting (plaintiffs) with ashes that were not their loved ones remains," the suit claims.

At one point, when asked about other employees, Lankford disclosed he previously employed one woman with whom he was in a romantic relationship, though she is no longer employed there and the relationship has ended, Lankford said.

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

More than a dozen people watched the hearing virtually, including the mother of Lorey.

Lankford opened the funeral home in April 2019 after receiving his license as a funeral director from the state of Indiana in November 2018. Previously, Lankford worked in ministry, according to an article written about the new funeral home in the News and Tribune.

The article noted Lankford's cheaper services, explaining he struggled to pay for his parents' funerals.

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.

"I don't want any other family to be in the situation I was in, so I offer my services at a discounted price," Lankford said in the article.

Jeffersonville Police officers were led to the funeral home at 3106 Middle Road on July 2 based off information from another agency, Parker said.

Clark County Prosecutor Jeremy Mull has said he will review the case once the investigation is completed and determine whether criminal charges are appropriate.

Lankford's next scheduled court appearance is Aug. 2.

This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: Lankford Funeral Home Jeffersonville owner in court after bodies found