A Lake Superior judge on Wednesday, November 7, denied a request to exhume the remains of a stillborn fetus found eight years ago at the Smith, Bizzell & Warner Funeral Home in Gary.
A lawsuit was filed by Wyatt Puryear, who thought his stillborn son, Marcus Puryear, had been buried in 1996. But the remains of the fetus were found in 2012 at Smith, Bizzell & Warner Funeral Home. In 2015, the fetus “was finally laid to rest,” according to the Post Tribune, which cited court records.
Attorneys for Smith, Bizzell & Warner filed a motion to exhume Marcus Puryear and to conduct DNA testing to prove that Wyatt Puryear and Marcus Puryear were father and son. But Judge Bruce Parent denied both requests to exhume the remains and to do DNA testing.
In his ruling, Parent concluded that the funeral home provided “nothing more than speculation in an attempt to rebut the presumption that Puryear was the father of the child.”
Wyatt Puryear’s Attorney, Kevin Smith, called the funeral home’s request a “ghoulish request.” Smith argued that the funeral home never questioned his client’s paternity or the fetus’ mother or any other potential fathers until now.
Court records state that Marcus Puryear was stillborn March 23, 1996, at an estimated 20 to 24 weeks.
Wyatt Puryear said he paid Smith, Bizzell & Warner Funeral Home to bury the fetus remains. According to court records, Puryear thought the remains were buried at a service he attended at a cemetery.
An employee in 2012 found two fetal remains at the funeral home. Although initial reports said the remains were discovered in the ceiling, court records said they may instead have been in a cabinet.
Court records state that the fetus of Marcus Puryear had a tag from the morgue from Methodist Hospital. The tag had the mother’s name and date on it.
A report in the court records stated that the Smith, Bizzell & Warner worked “for several months” with the Lake County coroner’s office “on the final disposition of the fetal remains,” which were eventually turned over to the coroner’s office in 2015.
When the funeral home notified Wyatt Puryear of the remains in March 2015, he filed a lawsuit, claiming negligence.
Founded in 1921, Smith, Warner & Bizzell is one of Gary’s oldest and most respected funeral day night. Visclosky grabbed 68 percent of the vote over Republican challenger Mark Leva, who took 32 percent of the vote.
Though in a celebratory mood Tuesday night, Visclosky talked about the challenge that lay ahead for Democrats in Congress. “What the Democratic party has to do is govern. The first thing we ought to be concerned about is jobs, building infrastructure and putting people to work. The second thing is making the Affordable Care Act a lot better. There are people that are under insured or who don’t have insurance at all, we need to take care of that. We also want a fair tax code for all Americans,” said Visclosky.
Many of the candidates seeking countywide offices were also unopposed, they include Lake County Prosecutor Bernard Carter, Circuit Court Clerk Lorenzo Arredondo, Auditor John Petalas, Treasurer Peggy Katona and Assessor Jerome Prince.
Lake County Sheriff Oscar Martinez defeated his opponent Dan Bursa by 53,232 votes. Martinez 107,011, Bursac 53,779.