A funeral home director in the US state of Indiana, where the decomposing bodies of more than 31 people were found, has pleaded guilty to more than 40 counts of theft.
Prosecutors charged Randy Lankford, who owns the Jeffersonville business, for failing to complete the funeral services he was paid for.
The judge suggested he may serve 12 years and must also compensate 53 families $46,000 (£37,000) in total.
Lankford will be sentenced in June.
Jeffersonville Police began investigating the Lankford Funeral Home and Family Center in July last year following reports of a strong smell coming from the building.
The unrefrigerated bodies were found in various states of decomposition as some had been at the funeral home for months.
The cremated remains of 17 people were also found.
Lankford has been placed under house arrest until his sentencing. A judge has recommended he spend four years in prison and eight years under home detention.
Clark County Prosecutor Jeremy Mull said that the case against Lankford had been complicated by the number of charges against the 50-year-old and by a backlog created by the Covid pandemic, according to the Associated Press.
Derrick Kessinger’s father, fiancée and fiancée’s father were all in the care of the funeral home. He was among those in court on Friday.
“It’s been tough, but I do forgive him for what he did,” Mr Kessinger said. “I hope he can find forgiveness.”
Other families, however, are pursuing civil cases against Lankford.
Among the allegations in filed court documents are that a number of families received what they believed to be the ashes of their loved ones, only to be contacted by police months later and told the actual ashes had been discovered at Lankford’s funeral home – or that their family member was never cremated at all.