INDIANAPOLIS — An Indianapolis funeral home’s license has been suspended after an investigation discovered the funeral director left town for a weekend leaving a body unattended and improperly cared for leading to advance decomposition and the family of the deceased unable to hold an open casket funeral.
According to court documents, Rawls Mortuary Funeral Home Director Benjamin L. Rawls is accused of taking in the body of a deceased woman on July 14. After family members told Rawls they wished to have an open casket funeral and authorized embalming of the deceased, Rawls reportedly left town for the weekend and didn’t properly care for the body.
Upon Rawls return to Rawls Mortuary, located near Keystone and 38th Street, the funeral director discovered the body of the deceased woman to be in an advanced stage of decomposition. So much so, the court documents said, that an open-casket funeral was deemed impossible.
After Rawls told family members an open-casket funeral was no longer an option, the deceased was transferred to another funeral home for cremation.
The body of the deceased was inspected and found to still be in a body bag, to be positioned in an “unusual position, with right arm raised above the head,” and found to have no observable embalming incisions.
The inspector concluded the deceased hadn’t been embalmed despite Rawls claiming to have done so.
On July 19, the Indiana Professional Licensing Agency conducted an inspection on Rawls Mortuary, court records reveal. In the course of the inspection it was discovered that Rawls Mortuary:
- Did not have a license on display
- Had a cluttered and inaccessible embalming sink
- Had an unsanitary trocar
- Had an expired certificate of authority
The IPLA compliance officer graded Rawls Mortuary as a “fail”, court documents said.
According to the Indiana Attorney General’s Office, Benjamin L. Rawls and Rawls Mortuary agreed to a voluntary suspension of both Rawls’s license and of the funeral home’s license on Aug. 4 during a meeting of the State Board of Funeral and Cemetery Service.
The suspension will be in effect until Oct. 6, when the Board next meets. The suspension to both Rawls and the funeral home’s license could be extended as the investigation remains ongoing.
The Indiana Attorney General’s Office confirmed this is not the first time Benjamin L. Rawls has been investigated by the state. In 2015, Rawls was accused of hiding the remains of two infants inside a Gary funeral home’s ceiling in order to hide the bodies from state inspectors, the Chicago Tribune reports.