A proper funeral was held Monday for a 22-year-old Bronx man whose family was not told for months he had died in prison and was buried. NY1 Criminal Justice Reporter was the first to report on this story and has the follow up.
Lonnie Hamilton's casket gleamed in the sunlight Monday, after his funeral service at a Bronx church —six months after the 22-year-old died in an upstate prison.
"Just sending him off properly," said Lonnie Hamilton Sr.
The family remains heartbroken and outraged over the circumstances surrounding Hamilton's death.
He died at Marcy Correctional facility outside of Syracuse in March and was then buried — all without the state Corrections Department notifying his family. Last week his father had his son's body exhumed.
The family's lawyer says the state's autopsy determined the 22-year-old hanged himself. Corrections tells NY1 it tried to contact loved ones, but couldn't find any for the Bronx man who was doing prison time for robbery.
"Even though he made his mistakes, he was a great person," Hamilton's father said.
His father doesn't believe the state's story and says his son shouldn't have died in prison and been buried.
The family had an independent autopsy done, but doesn't know if it will provide answers.
"The problem is the body was not embalmed or preserved in any way," said Zachary Giampa, a lawyer for the family.
So when the body is buried it is set to decompose for the next six months over an entire summer."
The lawyer says corrections department guidelines do not require the embalming of dead prisoners it buries. The family is still battling to get paperwork from corrections.
"Basic paperwork that is performed when anybody in DOC custody, dies while in custody," Giampa said.
Hamilton's family says they are going to keep pushing until they're satisfied they have all of the information about his death.
"We don't believe that this done," Hamilton's father said. "We believe that there is a lot more that is not being said that is going to come out eventually."
They plan to sue the state for that information and what they call the wrongful death of Hamilton and the inability of his family to give him a proper funeral.