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Indianapolis funeral home director's license suspended after letting body decompose: Court docs

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Posted at 3:46 PM, Aug 09, 2022

INDIANAPOLIS — An Indianapolis funeral home director has had his license suspended after allegations he left a body to decompose for days.

Court documents allege Benjamin Rawls of Rawls Mortuary and Funeral failed to properly care for a body prior to leaving town for a weekend earlier this year.

Tymme Stewart-Dorris passed away on July 14, 2022, and Rawls Mortuary was contacted to transport her body and embalm her for an open-casket funeral. That's around the time Rawls left town.

When he returned, the body was in an advanced stage of decomposition, and an open-casket funeral was deemed impossible.

Stewart-Dorris was then cremated.

Court documents state her body was still in a body bag and found to be in an unusual position with the right arm raised above the head. No embalming incisions were found despite Rawls claiming to embalm her.

Stewart-Dorris' mother told WRTV she is devasted.

"Our family and her children did not get to say goodbye," she said.

According to court documents, on July 19, Indiana Professional Licensing Agency inspected the property and found

  • Rawls' funeral director license was not on display.
  • The embalming room's sink was cluttered and inaccessible;
  • The trocar was unsanitary, and the area used to disinfect the trocar-contained items were not accessible and his certificate of authority expired on March 1.

As a result, the mortuary failed inspection.

The Indiana Public Licensing Agency stated Rawls, "represents a clear and immediate danger to the public health, safety, or property if allowed to continue to practice as a funeral home in Indiana."

Rawls was issued a funeral director license in November of 2013.

He was issued a funeral home license in November of 2019.

According to the Chicago Tribue, Rawls' was accused of hiding two infants in the ceiling at Smith, Bizzell, Warner and Sons Funeral Home in Gary, IN during an inspection by the Indiana Professional Licensing Agency in 2015.

After the Attorney General's Office filed two petitions to suspend Rawls' license, he agreed to a summary suspension of his license and of the funeral home’s license.

According to the terms of the voluntary summary suspension agreements, Benjamin Rawls and Rawls Mortuary will be suspended from practicing until October 6, the next date that the State Board of Funeral and Cemetery Service meets.

The Board voted to accept the voluntary summary suspension agreements at its Aug. 4 meeting.

"The investigation is ongoing and depending on how things develop between now and then, our office may file to extend one or both of the summary suspensions before they lapse in October," Kelly Stevenson, press secretary for the Attorney General's office said.

WRTV filed a public records request for the 2015 incident in Gary.

This story will be updated.