What to know about the discovery of 31 bodies in Jeffersonville

Jene J. Long

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

On July 2, Jeffersonville Police officials announced dozens of bodies were found decomposing inside a funeral home in the Southern Indiana city, just across the river from Louisville. And as of July 6, the investigation continues, with a lawsuit pending and plenty of questions still unanswered.

Jeffersonville Police Maj. Isaac Parker told The Courier Journal that officials looking into the case are “still at the beginning aspects” of the probe into Lankford Funeral Home and Family Center.

After launching the investigation in early July, Parker said, more than 30 bodies, “some of which were in the advanced stages of decomposition,” were found, along with post-cremation remains of more than a dozen other people.

Investigators have spoken to the funeral home’s owner, Parker said, and are working with the Clark County Prosecutor’s Office. Clark County Prosecutor Jeremy Mull told The Courier Journal on Tuesday he is “still awaiting reports from all investigating agencies” and will decide whether charges are appropriate once his review is complete.

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Meanwhile, a Jeffersonville attorney filed a lawsuit July 5 on behalf of one family.

Here’s what we know about the situation at Lankford Funeral Home.

What happened at Lankford Funeral Home?

Jeffersonville Police responded to a call about Lankford Funeral Home on the evening of July 1, according to Parker, and worked into the following morning with several other law enforcement agencies to “secure the facility and process the scene.”

At the end of the initial investigation, Parker said, 31 decomposing bodies had been found on site, along with the post-cremation remains of 16 other individuals.

Jeffersonville Police worked that scene with assistance from several other law enforcement branches, including the Clark County Sheriff’s Department, Indiana State Police, the Clark County Coroner’s Office, Clark County Emergency Management, the Clark County Health Department, the Clark County Prosecutor’s Office, Jeffersonville Fire, the Indiana Attorney General’s Office and Indiana’s Department of Homeland Security.

Where does the investigation stand?

Mull offered few details about the status of the case, other than to say he plans to review all evidence when it’s presented.

Parker, too, had little to say when contacted July 5, other than to note police are working with Mull’s office and that the investigation is still in its early stages. No additional bodies or cremated remains had been found since July 2, he confirmed.

“Step one for us is identifying all of the remains in hopes to provide the families of the decedents with some peace and closure,” Parker said. “That’s our main focus right now as we work through the investigation.”

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Parker could not say whether the funeral home had been open and operating in the weeks leading up to the weekend investigation, although the funeral home had posted several updates on its Facebook page before it was taken down sometime after July 2.

The Lankford Funeral Home website, which once posted obituaries and offered additional information about the facility’s services, was taken off the web sometime between July 2 and July 5.

What’s happening with the bodies?

Custody of the bodies and remains has been transferred to the Clark County Coroner’s Office, which did not return a request for comment July 5. That agency is working with police to identify all the remains.

Anyone with concerns or information about the remains, or who had entrusted care of a family member to Lankford Funeral Home, is asked to contact the coroner’s office at (812) 285-6282, and anyone with additional tips about the case is asked to reach out to Jeffersonville Police at (812) 285-6535.

The voicemail for the business now instructs callers to contact the coroner’s office.

Who owns Lankford Funeral Home?

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

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

According to the facility’s now-unpublished website, Randy Lankford serves as owner, director and embalmer at the funeral home. The establishment’s staff directory listed three employees, with one taking care of marketing.

Randy Lankford did not respond to phone calls and emails July 2 and July 5 seeking comment.

Who is suing Lankford funeral home?

Multiple families of those who were entrusted to Lankford Funeral Home have filed suit.

Jeffersonville attorney Larry Wilder filed the first civil lawsuit against the funeral home July 5 in Clark Circuit Court on behalf of two clients concerned about the handling of their daughter’s remains.

In the suit, the two claim they entrusted the remains of Nicole Lorey, who died June 14, to the business. The case claims that Lankford told the family she had been cremated but that he never delivered an urn with her remains, leading the family to believe her body may be among those recovered.

A second family has joined the suit with similar allegations concerning their deceased loved one, James “Mike” Settle, who died in April 2022.

A second suit was filed July 7 by Jeffersonville attorney Karl Truman on behalf of a mother and sister who allege the funeral home “failed to properly care for and account for” the remains of Joseph Devers.

The following day, the family of Julia Wimbush filed suit alleging the funeral home was negligent in cremating Wimbush, who died in January 2022.

The family received a box of what they were told were Wimbush’s ashes in March, according to the suit, though the news of the investigation has the family questioning what they received.

“In light of the ongoing police investigation, all the family knows is that they got a box containing someone’s ashes,” said Indianapolis attorney Greg Laker in a statement.

Lawsuits represent just one side of a case. Court records do not show a reply from Lankford in any of the lawsuits.

Wilder said he plans to request the court take up the case as a class-action lawsuit, which would allow additional families to join as plaintiffs.

The judge hearing the suit has ordered the Clark County Health Department and Clark County coroner to turn over to the court the names of all individuals whose remains were found on the property as well as their next of kin.

Reporters Matthew Glowicki and Eleanor McCrary contributed. Lucas Aulbach can be reached at [email protected], 502-582-4649 or on Twitter @LucasAulbach.

This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: Lankford Funeral Home under investigation as 31 bodies found by police

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