May 19—JEFFERSONVILLE — Wounds are still fresh for the families who entrusted disgraced Jeffersonville funeral home owner Randy Lankford with the remains of their loved ones.
Lankford was expected to take a plea deal Friday connected to criminal charges against him in the bizarre case where authorities found the bodies of 31 people and cremated remains of 17 people at his now-defunct funeral home on Middle Road in Jeffersonville last July.
Instead, Clark County Magistrate Jeffrey Branstetter set another court date for the plea deal and pushed it to next Friday.
For three families at the courthouse on Friday the delay is another difficult step in being able to properly grieve their loved ones.
Branstetter said much had unfolded between when the plea was filed this week and Friday morning’s hearing.
Clark Circuit Court 3 Judge Lisa Glickfield has been handling the case but was out sick this week, and Brantsetter said it is the court’s preference that she stay on the case.
He also said there was also an issue with how terms about restitution were written into the plea deal, and he wanted attorneys to work that out.
“There are still a few more hurdles,” Branstetter told Lankford as he sat in court Friday.
The only criminal charges Lankford has faced connected to this case are for theft. He’s accused of not returning cremated remains to people who paid for them or giving people remains that weren’t of their loved ones, but instead someone else.
There are still civil cases pending against Lankford.
Attorneys told the News and Tribune previously that there are likely no laws in Indiana that allow for him to be charged for the more egregious allegations in the case.
According to the probable cause affidavit, Jeffersonville police were called to Lankford’s funeral home at 3106 Middle Road on July 1, 2022 after an anonymous complaint that he was “allowing bodies to decompose inside.”
The scene is described by Jeffersonville Police Detective Josh Schiller in the court records.
“I could smell from what I know from experience to be an extreme stage of decomposition of remains emanating from the northeast corner of the building,” he wrote.
The smell is something that Derrick Kessinger noticed the first time he was at the funeral home.
Kessinger, the father of two young sons, said he used Lankford Family Funeral home for funeral services for his father, his fiancé and his fiancé’s father.
His fiancé, Barton, was killed exactly a year ago in Louisville.
“It was cheap and that’s where everyone referred me to,” he said, adding he had noticed the smell at the facility. “It was awful. Nobody wanted to stay. It was at my father’s service and my fiancé’s service.”
For 20-year-old Samantha Lin it was important to be in court on Friday and she plans to return to the rescheduled hearing next week.
Her family contacted Lankford’s funeral home after her mother, Angie Lin, died.
She said the day after her family took her mother’s remains to Lankford Family Funeral Home she was notified by news reports that Lankford’s funeral home was raided.
“The priest from the hospital my mother was dying in suggested that because we didn’t have any money and that was the cheapest one, so we decided to go to that one,” she said.
Cynthia Lorey-Cook, who used Lankford’s funeral home in the death of her daughter, Nicole Dallas Lorey, comforted Lin after the hearing.
Lorey-Cook’s daughter died of a drug overdose last June at the age of 33.
“We got a call from the coroner and he suggested who to call for the funeral home because we didn’t know with it being pricey, and we were suggested by the coroner to call him,” Lorey-Cook said.
She was tearful speaking about her daughter and the situation involving Lankford. She said it was really hard to be in a room with Lankford.
“I kept calling to see if the cremation had been done and he lied and said it had been and she was in a temporary urn,” she said. “And then we found out…that’s when they found the funeral home and we knew he had lied, the whole time.”
Lorey-Cook, like other families affected by this case, said that Lankford hasn’t apologized to her and she doesn’t want an apology.
“I don’t think it would be true. Look at what the man’s done,” she said. “Really, it would not be accepted apology, because he’s not sorry.”