WILLIAMSON — A Wyoming County couple says a Gilbert funeral home and one of its employees mishandled the body of their stillborn son.
Angela and Denny Seth Lester filed their complaint in Mingo Circuit Court against Mounts Funeral Home Inc. and Nicole Cline.
According to the complaint, the plaintiffs are the biological parents of A.C.L., who died stillborn of natural causes on May 17, 2018, at CAMC Women’s and Children’s Hospital in Charleston.
The couple hired Mounts to handle funeral arrangements and final disposition of the infant’s body. Denny Seth Lester signed the authorization releasing the body to Mounts on May 21.
That same day, according to the complaint, Cline traveled to Charleston in her personal vehicle, a Ford Fusion, to take her husband Jeff Cline to a doctor’s appointment and to run errands. She picked up the body at 4 p.m.
On January 29, 2020, Jeff Cline posted a video on several social media outlets describing the process of transporting and embalming the plaintiffs’ infant son’s body and wrongfully suggesting the corpse was the result of Angela Lester terminating the pregnancy.
“The Cline video was shared numerous times and was viewed by a large number of people in the plaintiffs’ community throughout both Mingo County and Southern West Virginia,” the complaint states. “Plaintiffs were unaware that defendant Cline had transported their infant’s body in her private vehicle and were likewise unaware that defendant Cline’s husband was in the car during the transport to defendant Mounts Funeral Home until they were made aware of the Cline video on or about February 1, 2020.
“The mishandling of their infant son’s body by the defendants and the Cline video, made possible by the defendants’ reckless behavior, caused significant mental anguish, pain and suffering to your plaintiffs as they were forced to relive the death of their infant son in a very public manner.”
The Lesters accuse the defendants of negligence, negligent infliction of emotional distress, negligent mishandling of a corpse and negligent supervision.
They seek joint and several compensatory damages, punitive damages, pre- and post-judgment interest, court costs, attorney fees and other relief.
In their separate answers to the complaint, both Mounts and Cline deny the allegations and seek to have the case dismissed.
Jeff Cline is a former Gilbert police officer who also ran for Mingo County Sheriff. In 2013, he was given federal immunity from potential crimes for testimony regarding former Mingo Circuit Judge Michael Thornsbury, who was charged with conspiracy to violate the constitutional rights of his former secretary’s husband. Thornsbury was sentenced in 2014 to more than four years in federal prison.
Jeff Cline was mentioned in the federal indictment of Thornsbury, who asked Cline to plant a metal box containing illegal drugs on the man’s car. But Cline apparently did not plant the drugs.
The Lesters are represented by Truman Chafin and Tish Chafin of The Chafin Law Firm in Williamson as well as Christian R. Harris of Williamson. Mounts is represented by George Halkias of the Law Office of Asad U. Khan in Charleston, and Cline is represented by David F. Nelson of Hendrickson & Long in Charleston. The case has been assigned to Circuit Judge Miki Thompson.