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Indiana funeral director pleads guilty to 40 counts of theft after decomposing bodies

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The director of a southern Indiana funeral home where 31 decomposing bodies and the bodies of 17 other people were found pleaded guilty Friday to more than 40 felony counts.

Clark County Circuit Court Judge N. Lisa Glickfield said Randy Lankford, owner of Lankford Funeral Home & Family Center in Jeffersonville, faces a proposed sentence of 12 years: four years in prison and eight years of home confinement.

Lankford was charged with theft for failing to complete funeral services for which he was paid, and also must pay restitution to 53 families totaling $46,000.

After the hearing, Lankford was released from house arrest. A formal sentencing hearing is planned for June 23.

Jeffersonville police began investigating the funeral home early last July after the county coroner’s office reported a strong odor emanating from the building. The undecomposed bodies were found in various states of decomposition, and some had been at the funeral home since March.

Clark County Prosecutor Jeremy Mull said the multiple charges against Lankford and the current court backup process complicated by the COVID-19 pandemic. He said he thinks the state’s move to eliminate about half the count will provide the most immediate form of relief.

He said, ‘We want to get justice to these families.’

Derrick Kessinger attended Friday’s court hearing. He said he trusted Lankford while the remains of three loved ones sat inside the funeral home.

“It’s been difficult, but I forgive him for what he did,” Kessinger said. “I hope he can find a pardon.”

Kessinger eventually found cremation.