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Mother of woman left to decompose at Indianapolis funeral home seeks justice

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Posted at 11:28 PM, Aug 09, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-15 10:39:48-04

INDIANAPOLIS — A mother is devastated after her daughter's body decomposed, while under the care of an Indianapolis funeral home.

Rawls Mortuary is now closed for business, but the attorney general's office and other state agencies are investigating.

WRTV's Rachael Wilkerson exclusively spoke to the mother of the deceased who said this never should have happened.

"Why would anybody want to treat my daughter like this? She didn't deserve this. nobody deserves this," Vicki Stewart said.

A purple urn, pictures and four bears are all Vicki Stewart has left to remember her beloved daughter, 32-year-old Tymme Stewart-Dorris.

Tymme passed away on July 14 from a heart condition.

"My daughter was a vibrant person, and she would give her last shirt order collar, whatever, to a person to help," Stewart said.

Tymme was taken to Rawls Mortuary on Keystone Avenue to be embalmed and prepared for an open casket funeral.

Documents from the Attorney General's office show she was left for days without ever being embalmed.

"Her body was so deteriorated, so I had to do a direct cremation," Stewart said.

Stewart claims the funeral director, Benajmin Rawls, asked if her daughter could be cremated, so the family called Kirkland Funeral and Cremation Services for help.

Stewart, said she was advised that she had to file paperwork before her daughter could legally be cremated.

Tymme was then cremated.

The family contacted the state board.

Still, Stewart said friends and family didn't get to pay their respects to Tymme.

"I needed to see her. I needed to have closure," Stewart said. "Now, myself, her father, none of us can have closure. We have to remember they see her the last time. My grandchildren can't even see their mother for the last time. He took that away from us."

On July 19, the Indiana professional licensing agency inspected Rawls Mortuary. It failed and was deemed an immediate danger to public health and safety.

Rawls license has been suspended and the funeral home is now temporarily shut down.

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.

"It's comforting, comforting to know that for the next 90 days, he will not be able to practice or do this to anyone else," Stewart said. "But I'm going for the long suspension. I want his license revoked. I don't want this to happen to another family."

Services for other deceased individuals were scheduled this weekend at Rawls Mortuary, but an employee tells WRTV all loved ones have been removed and transferred to other funeral homes.