A funeral home director has pleaded guilty to theft after 31 decomposing bodies and 17 sets of cremated remains were found on the site of his business in Indiana.
Randy Lankford, owner of Lankford Funeral Home and Family Center in Jeffersonville, faced 43 counts of felony theft for failing to complete the funeral services he was paid for.
Police began investigating the funeral home in July 2022 after the county coroner's office reported a strong odour emanating from the building.
The unrefrigerated bodies were found in various states of decomposition and some had been at the funeral home since March that year.
Authorities found that three of the facility's four air conditioners weren't working
Bodies in body bags were stored in different rooms and several had been there for an "extended" period of time.
Lankford is facing multiple lawsuits from people whose loved ones were among the bodies or cremated remains found at his funeral home last July.
In a civil complaint filed last week, a couple said Lankford sent them a plastic box last June purporting to contain their daughter's remains.
The couple later learned that their daughter hadn't been cremated at all - she was among the decomposing bodies discovered at Lankford's business.
The suit accuses Lankford of negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress and breach of contract.
Derrick Kessinger, who had trusted Lankford with the bodies of three loved ones whose cremated remains were found inside the funeral home, attended Friday's hearing.
"It's been tough, but I do forgive him for what he did," Mr Kessinger said.
"I hope he can find forgiveness."
Mr Kessinger eventually received the cremated remains of his loved ones.
Lankford pleaded guilty to 43 counts of theft where the value of the property is between $750 (£607) and $50,000 (£40,500), court records in Clark County show.
He faces a proposed sentence of 12 years - four of those in prison and eight of home incarceration, Clark County Circuit Court Judge N. Lisa Glickfield said.
Lankford must also pay restitution to 53 families totalling $46,000 (£37,259).
He was released to home incarceration following the hearing.
A formal sentencing hearing is planned for 23 June.