From the Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Ledger:
Paul Vun Cannon died earlier this month near Newtown Pike, where he probably lay down and didn’t wake up.
No one knows precisely when he died. His body was found on Aug. 12. He would have had his 50th birthday the next day. Instead, the coroner and a deputy coroner collected his remains and took them to the coroner’s office a few blocks away.
But not all Vun Cannon’s body made it there.
On Aug. 14, Sherry Nimbach, a close friend of Vun Cannon’s, visited the area where his body had been found. It’s a wooded strip of land off Newtown Pike, a little before the left turn into downtown Lexington. Homeless men, whom Vun Cannon knew, sleep there, and he had walked there after becoming stranded in Winchester, said Nimbach, 49. She thinks he drank beer along the way and became severely dehydrated in the near-record temperatures.
A preliminary autopsy indicates there was no foul play in his death.
When Nimbach walked through the area where her friend’s body had lain for several days, she found a large piece of his black hair and what she believes is part of his scalp. Twigs and a plastic cup were entangled with the matted hair.
A friend of hers called the coroner’s office to report the finding, she said, but they couldn’t provide the exact location. Days passed, and Nimbach went to the site a few times, and part of Vun Cannon’s remains were still there.
By Wednesday night, “I couldn’t take it anymore. That scalp wasn’t going to lay there in that ditch anymore,” she said. “It made me sick to do this, but I just pulled and it ripped. I brought home the part I had. … I felt it rip, I felt like I left part of it behind. I left with what I had. That’s why I thought some remained there.”
Eventually, with some urging, she agreed to turn the remains over to the coroner. “I want it back with Paul,” she said.
Still, she said she feared meeting the authorities and begged the Herald-Leader reporter to deliver the remains to the coroner’s office.
After the reporter took the bag to the coroner, Fayette County Coroner Gary Ginn said he helped recover Vun Cannon’s badly decomposed body. Two trees were removed and sheets were spread around his body in an attempt to keep the remains together when they were moved, he said.
“Obviously, there was an oversight. I’ll take responsibility for it,” Ginn said. “I’m thankful it was brought to our attention.”
Ginn confirms a large amount of Vun Cannon’s hair was in the bag. He said it’s normal for hair to slough off during decomposition. But, he said, what Nimbach thought was scalp is really a styrofoam cup — litter from the ditch — covered in body fluids.
More on it here:
t was one of the strangest phone calls I’ve taken as metro editor at the Herald-Leader — and I’ve taken plenty of odd phone calls over the years. The woman on the line was despondent because she said the county coroner had left her friend’s scalp in wooded area along Newtown Pike.
When Steve called me back a few hours later, things got a little stranger. “I have a scalp in my car,” Steve told me.
Steve says that he first advised Sherry Nimbach to turn the material over to the coroner. “But for whatever reason – fear, grief, distrust of authorities or all three – Sherry Nimbach balked at taking a piece of her friend’s hair and scalp to the coroner’s office,” Steve says. “She begged me to do it. I rolled my eyes and balked myself and again encouraged her to make the delivery. But her protests increased and I started feeling bad for her dead friend, Paul. If I were in the same situation, I imagine I’d like someone to reunite my remains. And, I guess I’m a sucker for tears.
“In my gut, I suppose I knew I was crossing some journalism ethics line, but I couldn’t think of anything better… I was on the front porch with a mourning woman, who I didn’t know, whose moods swung widely the past few hours I had been with her. Oh, and she had produced a scalp from her freezer. Were we just going to stand there with the trash bag indefinitely?
Posted in In the news
, Nature, red in tooth and claw
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