A Kentucky coroner allegedly left a dead man in a hot car overnight, causing the body to decompose so badly that the man’s family was forced to hold a closed-casket funeral — and people still got sick from the smell.
Basill Peyton is suing former Morgan County coroner Raymond Vancleave, accusing him of leaving the body of Peyton’s brother Nathan Peyton in a bodybag overnight in a vehicle on an “unseasonably warm day.”
According to the lawsuit filed Tuesday, Nathan Peyton died on Dec. 30, 2022, and Vancleave, then the coroner, retrieved the corpse. However, the lawsuit says, instead of taking the corpse to the state medical examiner’s office or putting it in cold storage, “Coroner Vancleave kept possession of the body of Nathan Peyton who was located in a sealed black body bag inside Coroner Vancleave’s SUV vehicle that was parked and remained during the afternoon and overnight at the home of then coroner Vancleave.”
In other words, according to the complaint, the coroner kept the corpse in his car for almost an entire day.
The lawsuit says Vancleave didn’t have permission to store bodies because he had previously failed to collect them on time.
“It is alleged that Morgan County Coroner, Raymond Vancleave did not have morgue, freezer or cooling system privileges at any local hospital or other appropriate facility with said privileges being suspended due to a failure to timely retrieve bodies.”
As the body of Nathan Peyton sat inside Vancleave’s car, the corpse “rapidly decomposed while sealed within the body bag that was left inside of Raymond Vancleave’s hot motor vehicle.”
Vancleave allegedly took the body the next day to the medical examiner’s office in Frankfort “for an autopsy that was not requested by the family.” The ME allegedly noted that the body was “moderately decomposed,” but when a funeral home came to get Nathan Peyton’s body the following day, things appeared to have gone from bad to much, much worse.
“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.
According to the complaint, the smell was so bad that Nathan Peyton’s body couldn’t be embalmed due to “almost complete decomposition.”
“[S]adly, his body would have to be left sealed inside of the body bag and placed inside a coffin for burial,” the lawsuit says. “The funeral service had to be conducted with a closed casket due to the unbearable smell that emanated from the casket[.]”
Even then, people who attended the funeral six days later were sickened by the smell.
“Multiple pallbearers, visitors, and funeral home staff vomited and became ill because of the foul and pungent odor coming from Mr. Peyton’s coffin,” the complaint says. “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 lawsuit accuses Vancleave and other county officials of “reckless, negligent, and careless behavior” and is seeking an unspecified amount of damages.
According to Peyton’s lawyer, Vancleave resigned from his coroner post after notice of Peyton’s claims was filed.
“[W]e are not saying that Mr. Vancleave or any former or current member of the Morgan Fiscal Court are bad people,” attorney Donald McFarland said in a statement emailed to Law&Crime. “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.”
McFarland said that Peyton, a military veteran, has sought “psychiatric treatment at the VA medical hospital due to the trauma” of the “nightmare” situation.
“No human being should have been treated the way that Nathan Peyton was treated,” the statement continued. “He should have been treated with respect and dignity and his family, especially his brother Basill Peyton should have been able to properly say farewell to their loved one in a dignified manner.”
“We simply do not want any family of Morgan County to have to go through what the Peyton family has been made to endure,” the statement added. “Imagine that something like this would happen to someone that you love.”
Read the complaint, below.
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