Among the flood of reports on the Newtown school slayings has been one saying that the bodies of shooter Adam Lanza and his mother Nancy remain unclaimed, raising new questions about the Lanzas' extended family and state procedure.
But arrangements for burial are in the works, at least for the mother, Chief State Medical Examiner H. Wayne Carver confirmed Tuesday.
"There is a funeral home, out of state and whose name is as yet unknown to me, who wants to claim the body discreetly," Carver said. That state is apparently New Hampshire, where the former Nancy Jean Champion was raised in Kingston, just north of the Massachusetts line.
"The police in New Hampshire are already trying to control an ever-expanding cohort from the fourth estate," Carver wrote in an email.
It was not known if Adam's body was still unclaimed Tuesday night. Carver said the press in the Granite State is "in full boil" about the case, too.
Asked the process of such retrieval, Carver would say only, "Have you ever noticed that our transport vehicles are unlabeled? I do this on purpose. The families of the dead don't need to see the truck that hauled off their relative over and over again on the tube."
Carver said unclaimed bodies are a big problem for his department, in general, which is run out of a 30,000-square-foot mortuary, laboratory and administrative facility in Farmington.
"The drill is to get a letter from the police department of record that no next of kin can
The Newtown case brings up several issues: What happens when no one claims a body? What happens when a body gets to a funeral home but no one steps up to pay?
Funeral directors statewide are pretty familiar with the latter, said John Cascio, executive director of the Connecticut State Funeral Directors Association.
"Funeral directors are ... there to serve the families," he said. "And so ... individual funeral homes across the state have to do funerals of that kind for free."
Cascio says it's a matter of concern for the dignity of the deceased.
"They (funeral directors) are trained to be compassionate; they're trained to be caregivers. They're trained to be understanding," Cascio said. "They have to do their best to give everyone a dignified funeral."
Cascio said there is a protocol for unclaimed ashes - or "cremains" - or a body. The medical examiner's office will hold onto them, he said. But funeral directors sometimes get involved to resolve a stalemate.
In two recent cases, "through the efforts of the ME's office and Connecticut funeral directors, we purchased the graves and the monuments."
Cascio said funeral directors are in "constant contact with the ME's office; we work very well with them."
Sometimes there's a conflict among relatives about choice of funeral home or burial site.
Carver, the longtime medical examiner who did seven autopsies himself in the Newtown case, said,
"There is no clear-cut hierarchy as to next of kin. If two sides fight over a body, I fold my arms over my chest and tell them to get me a probate court order. Usually within a half-hour I get a faxed letter signed by both warring parties as to which funeral home to use."
The funeral director by state law has to send out a certified letter to whomever they determine is next of kin, said Cascio, and wait for a reply. It's not a case of indigence here, however.
According to published reports, Nancy Lanza and then-husband Peter were both successful when they moved to Newtown in 1998. Their amicable divorce brought Nancy $240,000 a year and more in alimony and child support, so she didn't have to work again, except to care for Adam, who didn't learn to drive until recently.
She became a gun enthusiast and Friday was killed by four .22-caliber bullets to the head from a gun that was not among those taken to the school Friday, Carver told ctnow.com.
Cascio speculated the estate would be paying for the Lanza burials.
"In this case, the next of kin for the mother would be the older son (Ryan)," he said. "The next of kin for the boy is the father."
Cascio said the state's funeral directors, including Howard Hill of New Haven and the Eriksons at Beecher and Bennett in Hamden, are volunteering work on the funerals for the Newtown victims.
"They've done it all, from helping field the calls at the funeral home, moral support ... driving to the crematory, driving the families to the cemetery, opening the doors, anything," he said.
Contact Joe Amarante at 203-789-5675. Follow him on Twitter @joeammo.