'Putrid' Smell at Funeral Sickens Mourners, Coroner Steps Down After Allegations Come Out


A lawsuit was filed on Tuesday against a former coroner in Kentucky after a smell coming from the casket at a funeral sickened mourners.

According to Law & Crime, Basill Peyton is accusing former Morgan County coroner Raymond Vancleave of mishandling the body of his brother Nathan Peyton.

The lawsuit says that after Nathan Peyton died on Dec. 30, 2022 — an “unseasonably warm day” — Vancleave came to retrieve the body and then left it in the back of his car overnight.

It also says that Vancleave “did not have morgue, freezer or cooling system privileges at any local hospital or other appropriate facility,” with those privileges having been revoked due to his failure to retrieve bodies in a timely manner.

The medical examiner received the body the next day and reported that it was “moderately decomposed.”

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By the time the funeral home arrived to pick up the body, the lawsuit says, “the smell emanating from the body bag was pungent and putrid.”

According to the suit, Nathan Peyton’s body couldn’t be embalmed due to “almost complete decomposition.”

As a result, the family had to hold a closed-casket funeral, but even then, several of those in attendance became sick due to the smell.

“The family and loved ones of Nathan Dean Peyton were not able to properly say goodbye to him at a normal funeral due to the reckless and negligent treatment of his corpse,” the complaint says.

Vancleave resigned from his position as coroner after the Peyton family made the allegations against him, according to Donald McFarland, an attorney for the family.

McFarland also said Peyton has sought “psychiatric treatment” due to the “nightmare” situation.

“Nobody should ever be treated that way, not even an animal,” Peyton told WLEX-TV. “That’s something that will stay with us until the day we die, knowing the way that he was mistreated.”

Peyton is seeking an unspecified amount of damages.

“We simply do not want any family of Morgan County to have to go through what the Peyton family has been made to endure,” McFarland said in a statement to Law & Crime.

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“We are alleging that a mistake was made when it came to the treatment of the corpse of Nathan Peyton. This abuse was negligent, careless and in my opinion was reckless.”

“No human being should have been treated the way that Nathan Peyton was treated,” McFarland continued.

“He should have been treated with respect and dignity and his family … should have been able to properly say farewell to their loved one in a dignified manner.”

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Peter Partoll is a commentary writer for the Western Journal and a Research Assistant for the Catholic Herald. He earned his bachelor's degree at Hillsdale College and recently finished up his masters degree at Royal Holloway University of London. You can follow him on Twitter at @p_partoll.