INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — The state funeral licensing board suspended the license of an Indianapolis funeral home and its director after the funeral home left the body of a young woman out to decompose. Rawls Mortuary received a 60 day suspension and could potentially lose its license for good. Its director, Benjamin Rawls, also faces a suspension and could lose his license indefinitely as well.
“I got a glimpse of her side. She was peeling. the only way to identify her was by a tattoo.” The sister of the victim, Tara Stewart, said when describing the incident. “She smelled spoiled.”
Stewart tells REAL News Michiana that her sister, 32-year-old Tymme Stewart-Dorris, passed away from a heart condition on July 14th. Her body was quickly discovered and Rawls mortuary took over the transportation and handling of her remains.
Stewart tells RNM that Rawls’ handling was unprofessional from the beginning. She claims they did not use a body bag to transport the body from the home and instead used her sister’s sheets to wrap up the body.
According to Stewart, Rawls explained they were going to embalm the body. But, a couple of days later, Rawls called to tell Stewart that they were going to need a closed casket. Stewart tells RNM, Rawls claimed the body had decomposed because of the heat. At that point, the family attempted get the body moved to another funeral home. Rawls then claimed he had already had the body cremated, which was not true.
At this point, Stewart tells RNM the family called the police. It was now 5 days after her sister had passed. When she went in to identify the body, it was sitting in a body bag in an unrefrigerated area and had not been embalmed. The body was so badly decomposed that she could only be identified by a tattoo on her arm.
Tymme Stewart-Dorris leaves behind 4 children, between the ages of 11 and 2-years-old.
“We were cheated out of that closure.” Stewart said. “Her kids were cheated out of that closure.”
It turns out, Benjamin Rawls has a history of mishandling bodies. In 2015 he was investigated for hiding the remains of two infants in the ceiling of a funeral home.
PARTNERSHIP WITH JUSTICE FOR MICHIANA
Rawls Mortuary has a history of working with convicted felon turned activist, Vernado Malone, and his non-profit Justice for Michiana. In 2021, REAL News Michiana uncovered a scheme in which malone was taking full-body nude pictures of the deceased at Alford’s Mortuary in South Bend. Since the investigative story, two families have filed lawsuits against Malone and the Alford’s and the Indiana Attorney General has opened its own investigation.
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