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Unique La. law requires Port Allen woman to bury her fiancé instead of cremating him

Frank Blankenship and Angelina Layne (Source: Angelina Layne)
Frank Blankenship and Angelina Layne (Source: Angelina Layne)
Updated: May. 7, 2019 at 5:32 PM CDT
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PORT ALLEN, LA (WAFB) - A woman went from planning her wedding to planning her fiancé’s funeral, but she cannot cremate his body. Instead, a little-known Louisiana law is forcing her to pay for a much more expensive burial.

“I really need help getting him where he needs to be,” said Angelina Layne.

It was April 9 when Frank Blankenship was driving on Highway 190 in Port Allen headed to Baton Rouge.

“He left here to go help my sister. My sister lives in Baton Rouge, and her tire was flat and we have a little air compressor,” said Layne. “He left at like 9:26, told me that he loved me, and ‘I’ll be back in a little bit.’”

But he never came back. Instead, Blankenship, 28, ran out of gas on Highway 190, just before LA 1. When he got out of his car to walk to a nearby gas station, he was struck and killed by a drunk driver.

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“He was my soulmate. He was my best friend. He was my only friend, the only friend I have, had,” said Layne.

The North Carolina couple moved to Louisiana about a year ago and were living in Port Allen.

Carl Perkins, 55, of Baton Rouge, was arrested and charged with vehicular homicide and driving under suspension. Louisiana State Police says Perkins tested twice over the legal drinking limit. But the problem Layne now faces is she cannot give her fiancé a proper funeral. To cremate his body, she says it would cost her $1,200, which she could scrape together, but West Baton Rouge Chief Coroner Yancy Guerin says by law, he cannot release the body and allow a cremation.

RELATED: Driver that struck, killed man on Hwy. 190 facing vehicular homicide charge; impairment suspected

“The way the law is written, if it was possible a crime could have been committed surrounding a death and a criminal statute was violated, it is mandatory for the coroner to deny the certificate, so it would be malfeasance in office on our part if we violated the state law by issuing a permit to cremate in this particular situation,” said Guerin.

Guerin goes on to say the purpose of the law is if there are any issues during court proceedings, in a worst case scenario, a buried body can be exhumed.

“Well, you can’t un-cremate someone, but you can go exhume someone. For example, maybe they want to examine the skeletal remains. It could be some information in the bone fractures and things like that,” said Guerin.

“I don’t think it is fair that I should be or anybody should be responsible to be forced to pay for something they cannot afford,” said Layne.

Compared to a cremation of $1,200, she's now looking at nearly $10,000 for a burial.

“Just to move him from the coroner’s office and embalm him and send him to North Carolina is $3,150,” said Layne. “For the funeral and burial services, $5,400, and that does not include the plot.”

Layne wants him home in North Carolina where his family and kids are, but the wreck totaled her car. With no way to get to work, she’s now out of a car and a job. Thankfully, her landlord was kind enough to allow her to stay put rent free.

“I feel like my life is ruined. This is devastating. He is in the morgue in a freezer and the man who killed him is out walking around on bail. I can’t even put him in the ground,” said Layne.

Layne is hoping people will find it in their hearts to help her give her fiancé a proper goodbye. After all, she should have been planning a wedding, not a funeral.

Anyone interested in helping Layne can access her GoFundMe account here.

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