Teresa Smith – Rest in Peace

Posted on 12/06/2013

“Teresa Smith died in her home aged 48. She left behind a 13 year old son and a boyfriend.”

That’s the sort of small obituary which might pass without very much notice unless you knew the person mentioned. If you stopped to think you might imagine grieving friends and family and a sad but dignified funeral in the community she lived in. Sadly that wasn’t to be. Teresa’s body was dragged from her home and onto the back of a tow truck in full view of her son, her boyfriend and assorted neighbours. The body then had a piece of carpet thrown over it and was driven through the streets.

Incredible as it sounds, that really did happen. If you’re wondering if the event occurred in a third world country you’re wrong, it was in Indianapolis in the USA – and if you’re thinking it must have been many years ago you’re also wrong, it was May 2009.

How did the body of a loved one come to be treated in such a way? Well Teresa weighed somewhere between 600lbs and 750lbs and so the authorities decided that this was a perfectly acceptable way to treat her remains. Detective Marcus Kennedy said:

“We debated for quite a while about how we were going to get her out of there and so we finally decided, since we didn’t have a van that was large enough to carry her, it was decided between (the police) department and the coroner’s office to use (the truck),”

To add insult to injury it later appeared that the Community had facilities for dealing with a person of Teresa’s size. Former Chief Deputy Coroner John Linehan said that Fire and Medical personnel had equipment available for handling patients up to 1,000 pounds and that moving larger people was not even a rare occurrence. He added that he was shocked and dismayed that appropriate steps weren’t taken to remove the woman from her home.

“When they scoop up dead dogs off of the street they don’t treat them that way,” he said. “It’s just not the way to treat a human being.”

Teresa had been bedridden and was unable to walk down the handful of steps in front of her ground-floor apartment. On previous occasions when she had fallen she had been helped back to bed by the Indianapolis Fire Department. According to her boyfriend her body was dragged out of her home on the mattress where she died. She was pulled through sliding patio doors, then a wooden privacy fence was demolished to allow the flatbed tow truck to back into apartment courtyard. A hoist was then attached to the mattress where Teresa lay and her body was then lifted onto the lorry. She was then covered with a carpet torn up from the floor of her home, which the current Chief Coroner, Dr Lloyd, said was the only covering available.

The truck then drove through the streets in a convoy with Police cars and flashing lights and witnesses who saw it reported that it was ‘obvious’ that a large dead body was being moved. Needless to say, video footage of this sad event has shown up on the internet. Dr Lloyd later admitted it was not the ideal way to handle a situation where a body was visible in public.

“That’s always a tough decision, to decide what sort of privacy you’re going to establish. You want to take as much caution as possible.”

It’s hard to imagine how Dr Lloyd might act if he wasn’t so concerned with someone’s privacy… In a television interview a few days later he defended the actions of his employees as “respectful”. When the interviewer asked him if he would allow a member of his own family to be transported in that fashion however, he responded, “No.”