A Kentucky funeral director, who is also an elected county coroner, is being accused by two women of taking advantage of their families after their infants passed away.
One mother, Brittany Jones, told WSMV that the director of Lamb Funeral Home in Hopkinsville essentially held her baby’s body ransom.
The coroner in Christian County, Ky., is Dorris Lamb, according to the county website. He’s served as coroner since January 1986.
A cash-strapped family, Jones and her husband wanted their baby’s remains released to Todd County Funeral Home because the owner, Shane Hessey, offered to bury her infant for free.
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"We went to pick the body up, and he refused to give us the body because there was a balance owed on his transportation costs," said Hessey. "We waited until the next day before we got the remains."
"I never thought someone would hold our baby just for money, and we just wanted to bury him and try to move on," Jones told WSMV.
Jones panicked because she wanted an open casket for the funeral and worried the remains had not been embalmed soon enough. Fed up, she called 911.
"I need a sheriff dispatched to Lamb Funeral Home," Jones told a 911 dispatcher in a recorded call earlier this year. "They have my baby and won't release him."
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“We talked with him to get a price earlier - what it would cost to bury our baby, a little baby, and he won't release him to Todd County where we want him buried,” Jones cried.
"Why are they refusing to release the child?" the dispatcher asked.
"He said that I owe him money, but he hasn't done any, provided any service,” she said. “He hasn't planned the funeral. He wouldn't do anything until we come up with the money."
"What he is doing is borderline, one, unethical and almost illegal if he actually says, 'you're not receiving this body until I get paid.' That is holding a body for ransom," Bob Arrington, a board member with the National Funeral Directors Association, told the local news channel.
Dorris Lamb says Jones is mistaken and that in her grief she misunderstood what he said to her.
"When babies' families or adults are distraught, sometimes they hear things or think things that aren't necessarily true. This talking about monies, there was no monies involved at all on our behalf," said Lamb.
He claims the family just wanted him to release the remains sooner than he did.
"There was no charge here. For a ransom you have to have a demand. All we did is tell them they would need to come the next day," he said.
WSMV reporters checked with the Kentucky Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors and found other claims against Lamb Funeral Home.
In 2007, a man claimed Lamb kept $4,000 from a prearranged funeral account. The board ordered Lamb to repay the money.
Another mother who lost two babies in just a few months claimed that Lamb demanded she pay for him before he’d allow her family to see her son the day of his visitation.
Lamb denied that claim as well.
"That's not our policy and never has been. And, same thing, I think, Kim. People hear what they want to hear. We are here to direct and help that family," Lamb told the WSMV reported.