Woman's body held in Ohio mortuary for more than a year

The body of a Cincinnati woman has been in a mortuary for more than a year, in part because Ohio doesn't officially track "indigent" cases like hers, a report said.

Nancy Jo Roberts’ health was declining, and she had no family living in Cincinnati to check on her regularly, Cincinnati's Fox 19 reported. The family said nobody reached out to them at the time.

Several month earlier, Joe Stenger, her court-assigned guardian, had moved Roberts to a Hamilton County nursing home that later informed her nephew, Dave Lord, about her death.

After Roberts died, Stenger was no longer responsible for her, so her body was taken first to a Colerain Township, Ohio, funeral home.

"Once they realized she was going to be an indigent case for Colerain Township, they did not want to handle that case anymore, so Colerain Township told them to send her to us," said Casey Liston, owner of Premium Mortuary Services in Carlisle, Ohio.

But Poul Lemasters, a death care attorney who represented Liston, told Fox 19 that Premium Mortuary was limited by law on how it could handle the body.

“Legally because we have no other choice," Lemaster said. “All they (Premium Mortuary) can do is accept a body. ... Can't cremate. Can't bury. You hold her and keep her in the most dignified way you can."

"We have no other choice. ... Can't cremate. Can't bury. You hold her and keep her in the most dignified way you can."

- Poul Lemasters, death care attorney

Liston says becoming a holding facility has grown his business —that’s how it became a dumping ground for bodies that funeral homes don't want to deal with. 

Premium Mortuary has offered to give Roberts a proper funeral, while Lord and his family are considering other options.

Fox 19 cautioned that those who don't live near loved ones or check on them regularly could end up in a similar situation.