GARY, Ind. (AP) – The father of a stillborn baby has filed a lawsuit against the operators of a Gary funeral home where his son’s remains had been stored for years without being buried.
Wyatt Puryear filed suit Friday against former and current operators of Smith, Bizzell and Warner and Son Funeral Home. The remains of his son and another baby were found inside boxes above ceiling tiles.
Puryear thought his son, who was delivered in 1996, had been buried. The suit claims Puryear was shown the funeral plot where his son was to be buried by funeral home workers, and then was told to leave they while finished burying him.
The lawsuit also accused the funeral home of not filing a fetal death certificate with the state and not properly disposing of remains. Marissa McDermott, an attorney representing Puryear, told The Times of Munster that more defendants could be added as they investigate previous funeral home owners.
“At this point there are more questions than answers,” she said. “This lawsuit is seeking answers.”
Funeral home spokesman Sean Howard has said the remains were “inherited” by current owners, and that they were being kept in a cabinet when an employee placed them above ceiling tiles in September. Howard said the remains were taken down the same day by the home’s manager.
The remains were retrieved by the Lake County Coroner’s Office earlier this month. Howard said the funeral home had followed guidance from the coroner’s office over the course of five months.
A statement from Walker Law Group on behalf of the funeral home’s current owners says there’s no legal connection between them and former owners who didn’t bury Puryear’s son. The Post-Tribune reports the law group claims the remains were “abandoned” by the family and that the funeral home couldn’t find relatives after “an extensive search.”
A complaint against the funeral home was filed this month by the Indiana Professional Licensing Agency.