May 26 – CLARK COUNTY – Disgraced Jeffersonville Funeral Home owner Randy Lankford reached a plea deal Friday afternoon that frees him from Clark County Jail and requires him to pay compensation to families who entrusted him with the funeral care of their loved ones.
But for some victims, there is no amount of money that is an antidote to their pain.
“It was difficult, but I forgive him for what he did, and I hope he can find forgiveness,” Derrick Kessinger said.
As part of Friday’s deal, Lankford pleaded guilty to more than 40 Level 6 felonies for theft.
He is due to compensate a number of families affected by the case and has been released to serve the remainder of his proposed sentence under house arrest. Those receiving restitution are entitled to sums of $450, $650, $900 or $1,000, depending on the plea agreement.
A formal sentencing hearing is scheduled for June 23 at Clark Circuit Court 3.
On Friday, Judge N. Lisa Glickfield said Lankford’s proposed sentence was 12 years for his charges. He can serve part of his sentence of incarceration at home.
Kessinger used Lankford Family Funeral Home for the services of three family members, including her fiancé. When he visited the funeral home last year, he noticed things weren’t right, especially the smell of the facility.
The plea deal surprised Kessinger.
“Just shocked, really, speechless, I didn’t expect that,” Kessinger said.
Last July, authorities raided the Middle Road funeral home in Jeffersonville after neighbors complained of a smell. They discovered the remains of 31 people, in various stages of decomposition, and the cremated remains of 17 people.
The only criminal charges Lankford has faced in connection with the case are for theft. He is accused of not returning cremated remains to people who paid for them or giving people remains that did not belong to their loved ones.
Civil cases are still pending against Lankford.
Lawyers previously told the News and Tribune that there was likely no law in Indiana that would allow him to be charged for the most egregious allegations in the case.
Cynthia Cape said she used Lankford Funeral Home for her husband’s services. Her husband was at the Louisville Veterans Hospital and they referred her to the Lankford company for funeral services. Her husband died in April 2022.
“Mr. Lankford was compassionate,” Cape said, adding that that changed after she paid for the services for her husband.
Around Memorial Day last year, she contacted the funeral home to ask where her husband’s ashes were and said she was taken by surprise.
She got them back a few weeks ago, exactly a year after her husband died.
“It’s not something you want anyone to go through,” Cape said.
Clark County District Attorney Jeremy Mull said the goal of the plea bargain was to get justice for the families involved in the case.
“It was a case where there were so many charges that we had to come to some sort of resolution that got justice now for these people and sent him to jail and ordered him to pay restitution,” Mull said, adding that the plea deal was “the degree of justice” the state could achieve in this case.
Mull said that thanks to a backlog of cases due to the COVID pandemic, cases are age-graded and stacked, so if they need to be tried, it could be years before that happens.
“So it’s important as a prosecutor in a case to say if we can fix this, if we can get any convictions, if we can get a prison sentence carried out…and do it in a timely manner,” said Mull. “So we were able to do that in the deal and we’re happy with that.”
Mull said steps were being taken to ensure Lankford could no longer be licensed to provide funeral services in Indiana.
Lankford has not yet apologized or addressed the families involved in the case in court, but his attorney, Tyler Miller, said he expected during the sentencing hearing.
“It’s such an unfortunate situation and Mr Lankford is really very remorseful. He’s very remorseful and he’s going to make a statement at the sentencing hearing to address all these victims, he’s not clearly can’t take back what happened and he’s accepted responsibility and hopes that brings some closure to these victims,” Miller said. “…he hopes that accepting responsibility for his act can help the families to find some peace. He has remorse.”