It’s a mix-up the Marion County Coroner’s office has never seen before. In one week, two unrelated women with the same name came forward saying the same man is their father.
It was a phone call Debbie Lucas never expected to get. Her 75-year-old step-father, Omer Turner, was found dead in his home on Nov. 26. She and her sister, Michele Portish, never imagined what came next.
“I’m lost. I’m at a loss. I don’t understand something like this could happen,” said Debbie Lucas. “He told me there was more to the story that was kind of disturbing.”
The Marion County Coroner’s Office said it tried to notify Turner’s next of kin by sending letters to seven Debbie Lucas’s found in Central Indiana. Surprisingly, two stepped up.
The sisters say a complete stranger, a Debbie Lucas from Columbus, Ind., came forward and signed release papers. She also went into Turner’s mobile home and stole the $19 in his wallet, his driver’s license, life insurance card, and will.
“I’m mad. She’s lying,” said Portish. “She said her mom talked to her about Omer Turner. She’s lying.”
“She was asking the neighbor what his name was,” said Lucas. “She asked him what he looked like. She asked if he was a thin man or a heavy set man. She had to ask for his address.”
That Debbie Lucas called Michelle back during Fox59’s interview with the sisters. The woman claimed she was adopted and her mother told her Turner was her father.
“In my 15 years working for the Coroner’s Office, I have not had anyone claim a decedent, claim that that is their loved one,” said Alfie Ballew, Chief Deputy Coroner.
Ballew said according to Indiana law, family can identify a decedent either by dental records, finger prints, DNA or visual ID. The National Association of Medical Examiners said a birth certificate or any other form of formal identification is not necessary.
“Nationwide, these documents are not required,” said Ballew. “We trust that if someone says that this is their loved one, then we really want to release the decedent to the family.”
The sisters hope the other Debbie Lucas will return her step-father’s IDs so they can lay him to rest.
“We have funeral to make. We can’t do it without his proper identification,” said Portish.
The sisters have filed a police report in hopes of starting a criminal investigation on the case. Turner’s body has not been released.