Kentucky state ward considered ‘abandoned body’ after death in Evansville



EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WEHT) – Vanderburgh County Coroner Steve Lockyear is speaking out to Eyewitness News about the case of a Kentucky man who he says was abandoned by the Commonwealth.

The man was a ward of the state of Kentucky, when he recently died in Evansville.

“It’s not a complicated issue, its government at its worst.”

Vanderburgh county coroner Steve Lockyear is used to complicated cases.

But this is one case he just doesn’t understand.

This case involves randy smith — a ward of the state of Kentucky who has now become Lockyear’s responsibility.

Smith died Friday at the Select Specialties Hospital in Evansville where he was receiving out of state medical treatment.

“Sadly, he passed away of natural causes but since that time the state of Kentucky has refused to follow up in any way in getting him buried and dignified.”

Lockyear says he doesn’t understand why conducting a burial is an issue for Kentucky when they have access to Smith’s financials assets as well as government funding.

“This is an ongoing issue when the state of Kentucky has guardianship on somebody over here that dies in Evansville, they have basically wash their hands on it. It puts us in a situation where we’re going to have to run basically an abandon body ad and wait 10 days and then the taxpayers of Vanderburgh County are going to have to facilitate and pay for the funeral.”

Although the Vanderburgh County Coroner’s Office is working to make sure Smith gets a proper burial –Lockyear says it’s just not right for the state of Kentucky to leave Smith abandoned.

”There’s a human element to this and you know talk about doing the right thing and if they need to change their laws or their policy where they make funeral arrangements and take care of somebody all the way to the grave that’s the appropriate thing to do.”

So, what does the state of Kentucky say about this?

We’ve reached out to the state of Kentucky Cabinet of Health and Family Services, which handles wards like Smith, and we’re still waiting for comments.

Original Story

EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WEHT) —  The Vanderburgh County Coroner’s Office is at odds with the state of Kentucky after a man dies at an Evansville hospital.

Coroner Steve Lockyear says Randy Smith, of Hartford, Ky, was considered a ward of the state in Kentucky because of his disabilities. Smith died Friday at Select Specialty Hospital where he was receiving treatment under Kentucky’s supervision.

Lockyear said he notified Kentucky health officials of Smith’s death only to be told that since Smith died in Indiana he was no longer their responsibility, and at this time he is an abandoned body.

The Coroner’s Office is working on appropriate arrangements.

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(This story was originally published on June 3, 2019)

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