NEWS: Kentucky coroner left man’s body in hot SUV overnight, causing staff, visitors to vomit from ‘putrid’ smell: suit
A Kentucky coroner has stepped down after a disturbing lawsuit alleges he left a dead man to fester in a hot SUV overnight causing the body to decompose so badly that funeralgoers became sick from the “pungent and putrid” odor six days later.
Morgan County Coroner Raymond Vancleave is accused of keeping the body of Nathan Peyton in a sealed, black bodybag instead of transporting Peyton to a freezer on a hot day in December 2022, according to a lawsuit obtained by Law & Crime Network, filed by the man’s estate in Morgan Circuit Court on Tuesday.
Basill Peyton, the administrator of Nathan Peyton’s estate, said he found his “fun-loving” brother’s body in “good condition” when he discovered him dead on Dec. 30, 2022, after he went to his home to check on him.
“I went and called 9-1-1, and it starts from there. A nightmare,” Peyton told WKTY.
Vancleave was tasked with picking up Nathan’s body that day, but when it arrived at the funeral home days later, a major “problem” was revealed.
“The body of Nathan Dean Peyton was decomposed so badly due to mishandling by then Morgan County Coroner, Raymond Vancleave, that the smell emanating from the body bag was pungent and putrid,” the lawsuit alleges.
The body had allegedly been left in Vancleave’s SUV for over a day after being picked up from the residence.
The coroner was unable to store the dead man at any local facilities since he had his “privileges” suspended for failing to “retrieve bodies” in a timely matter before he stored Nathan’s corpse in his vehicle overnight, the lawsuit alleges.
The body then “rapidly decomposed” in Vancleave’s vehicle by the time he took it to the medical examiner’s office the following day for an “autopsy that was not requested by the family,” the suit reads.
The medical examiner allegedly noted the body as “moderately decomposed,” but the lawsuit reveals that’s far from the truth.
Peyton’s brother’s body was so severely decomposed due to the alleged neglect by the corner that the family was forced to bury and say their “goodbyes” to Nathan with him “in the body bag” and in a closed casket due to the “reckless and negligent treatment of his corpse.”
The “foul and pungent odor” coming from Nathan’s closed casket service was so intense that family, friends, and “funeral home staff” were vomiting and getting “ill” from the smell six days following his death, the suit said.
“People actually got sick from the odor that was emanating from the casket,” he told WKTY.
Vancleave resigned from his coroner post after notice that Peyton filed the complaints, according to the suit.
“It’s not something you put on a high standard like you would a sheriff or governor,” Peyton said.
“But they can affect your life more than you’d ever imagine.”
Aside from Vancleave, six other Morgan County officials were named in the suit, including former Morgan County Judge-Executive John Stacy.
Peyton is seeking an unspecified amount of damages for the alleged mishandling and treatment of his brother’s corpse.