"I'm at a loss for words," says mortician Lester Sandlin. "There's no way to explain it. How do you explain to a loved one that their loved one has been stolen?"
Sandlin says one of his drivers stopped for gas in Morrisville and left the keys in the hearse while he paid for the gas. When the driver returned, the car, casket and corpse were gone.
About three hours later, police recovered the casket and corpse which was dumped on a Durham street. The neighbors could not believe what they found.
"I felt pretty sad," Durham resident Gregory Gibson said. "I just couldn't believe that somebody could just dump a body off right there, in this neighborhood."
Police were just as shocked as they dusted for clues in the casket caper. Even officers with decades of experience said they had never seen anything like it. Sandlin has been a mortician for 35 years. He is shocked too, but he is also very angry.
"A bizarre person took advantage of a vehicle, and he had no respect for what type vehicle it was," Sandlin said, "absolutely no respect for anybody, anything."
The missing hearse does not look like a typical hearse. It is a dark blue 1984 Ford LTD station wagon. Aside from car theft, police say it is a felony to steal a corpse.
As strange as this story is, it is the second time it's happened to Sandlin. Someone stole another one of his company vehicles back in July, but there was no body inside.