Last Friday, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a suit filed against Hamilton County, Ohio would be allowed to continue. The case focuses on morgue attendant Kenneth Douglas, who was accused in 2008 of inappropriate behavior with regard to the residents of the county's morgue. The suit, which was filed in 2012 by the families of two of Douglas' victims, Charlene Appling and April Hicks, alleges that the county was not only aware of Douglas' off-kilter predilections, but that morgue and county officials did nothing to prevent it.
Kenneth Douglas hasn't been an employee of Hamilton County since 1992, but he's still feeling the repercussions of his time as a morgue attendant working the night shift from 1976 to 1992. In his own words, he spent most of his time on the job abusing alcohol or getting high on crack. Apparently the combination renders corpses simply irresistible, because Douglas minced no words when he told reporters, "I would just get on top of them and pull my pants down."
According to officials working for the county, this behavior went completely unnoticed until Douglas' semen was tied to one of his victims, 19-year-old Karen Range, 17 years after he'd committed the crime. That little mistake earned him 3 years in prison for the gross abuse of a corpse. Incidentally, we're assuming the word "gross" refers here to its classical definition, "unattractively large or bloated," which applies to the extreme degree of abuse, not the fact that the corpses were bloated or that necrophilia is just plain revolting. On second thought, "gross" just might apply in all instances in this case. In 2012, Douglas was convicted a second time, for the mishandling of Charlene Appling and April Hicks' corpses.
Perhaps what's most disturbing about the case is the violence with which each of these women met their end. Karen Range was nearly decapitated by a door-to-door salesman in 1982, April Hicks died at the age of 24 from blunt force trauma suffered when she fell out of a third story window, and 23-year-old Charlene Appling was 6 months pregnant when she was strangled to death. Not to suggest there's such a thing as a particularly attractive corpse, but these were not bodies left in optimal condition, which speaks to the level of Douglas' insanity. For his part, he seems to attribute his behavior to addiction to drugs and alcohol. "If I hadn't had anything to drink when I went to work, it wouldn't happen," Douglas told reporters. "I would do crack and go in and drink and go in."
While he's only admitted to three crimes in court, a deposition once found Douglas claiming that he'd disturbed up to 100 bodies during his 16-year stint in the morgue. The lawyers for the families filing suit against Hamilton County claim that the county should be held liable for Douglas' perversion. The county, on the other hand, says they can't be held accountable for the misdeeds of one inebriated employee because they had no clue it was going on. Guess they should have asked his wife, because she claimed to know exactly what was going on and she couldn't wait to turn Douglas in.
In a deposition, Douglas' wife claimed that she could smell the sex and booze on her husband when she picked him up from work. She claims to have called the coroner to explain her suspicions, but that officials in Hamilton County told her, "Whatever happens on county time and on county property is county business."
The decision from the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will push the case forward. It's uncertain exactly how much they're expecting from the county.