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WEST LIBERTY – A Magoffin County man has filed suit against a former Morgan County coroner and the Morgan County fiscal court members over how his brother’s body was handled after his death last December.

Basill Ray Peyton, of Magoffin County, is the administrator of the estate of Nathan Dean Peyton, his brother who passed away at his home on Grassy Creek in Morgan County on December 30, 2022. On Wednesday, September 13, Don McFarland, Basill Ray Peyton’s attorney announced they have filed a complaint against former Morgan County Coroner Raymond Vancleave, alleging an abuse of a corpse claim against Vancleave, the former judge-executive and the five people who were on the fiscal court in Morgan County when the alleged incident occurred.

According to the complaint, Nathan Dean Peyton’s body was retrieved by the then-Morgan County Coroner Raymond Vancleave on the morning of December 30, 2022, which was noted as “an unseasonably warm day.”

“Instead of transporting the corpse of Nathan Dean Peyton to the State Medical Examiner’s Office in Frankfort, Kentucky, or storing the body of Nathan Dean Peyton in an appropriate refrigerated or otherwise cooled facility, 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 a the home of then Coroner Vancleave,” according the suit.

Allegedly, Vancleave did not have a morgue, freezer or cooling system privileges at any local hospital or other appropriate facility with said privileges due to a failure to timely retrieve bodies, according to the complaint.

The next day, December 31, Vancleave reportedly did take Peyton’s body to the State Medical Examiner’s Office in Frankfort for an autopsy, which had not been requested by the family, with Sarah Maines, MD, of the Office of the State Medical Examiner, noting in the report that the body was moderately decomposed when she performed an examination on him on January 1, 2023.

According to the complaint, Magoffin County Funeral Home Owner and Operator Paul Burchell retrieved Peyton’s body from the State Medical Examiner’s Office on January 1, and his body was reportedly already decomposed so badly “due to the mishandling by then-Morgan County Coroner Raymond Vancleave that the smell emanating from the body bag was pungent and putrid.”

Peyton’s body could not be embalmed due to the “almost complete decomposition of his body,” according to the complaint, and his body was left sealed inside of the body bag and placed inside a coffin for burial.

Funeral services were held on January 6, 2023, from the Magoffin County Funeral Home, according to the court document, and it was a closed casket service “due to the unbearable smell that emanated from the casket that was occupied by the body,” but even with those safeguards, multiple pallbearers, visitors and funeral home staff vomited and became ill because of the odor coming from the coffin, according to the complaint.

“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 by the defendants named herein,” McFarland states in the complaint.

The claim alleges Vancleave mishandled and abused the corpse of Peyton by his “reckless, negligent, and careless, behavior,” as well as accuses former Morgan County Judge-Executive John W. Stacy, and Morgan County Magistrate Brandon Evans, Donnie Keeton, Darrell Patrick, Carter Bolin and Leroy Phipps, of being negligent, careless and reckless by either knowing or should have known and failing to discover with reasonable due diligence the alleged behavior exhibited by former Coroner Vancleave and the mishandling of deceased bodies, including Peyton’s.

Basill Ray Peyton, via attorney Don McFarland, asserted a claim for punitive damages for “the oppression and malice shown by Defendants,” noting he has sustained severe mental and physical pain and suffering, including loss of enjoyment of life, incurred medical and hospital expenses for mental health treatment and will continue to do so in the future, and is entitled to an award of punitive damages due to the “egregious behavior of the defendants.”

Peyton asks for a judgment against the defendants, for an amount that would cover past and future mental and physical pain, suffering and inconvenience; past and future hospital and medical expenses; punitive damages; and miscellaneous expenses incurred by the plaintiff; court costs, and pre- and post-judgment interest. They also ask for a trial by jury and all other relief the plaintiff may be entitled.

McFarland also included in his announcement images from the State Medical Examiner’s report to further show the alleged negligence that was filed on September 12, but the photos are too graphic to publish in this newspaper.

The Independent will continue following this ongoing case.


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