CANTON — Nathan Katusin’s soul and being departed this earth in January. But nearly six months later, his cremains are still waiting to go to a permanent home.

His mom, Holly Katusin, planned to take them home after his cremation and services at Wackerly Funeral Home on Jan. 9.

However, that didn’t happen.

Kasey Katusin — Nathan’s dad and Holly’s ex-husband — told funeral officials he wanted to take them home instead.

So, the cremains sit at the funeral home with both sides claiming a right to them.

With no resolution in sight, Holly Katusin hired an attorney to help settle the stalemate. The attorney, Lisa M. Vitale Arnold, filed an action in Stark County Probate Court; she’s asking Judge Dixie Park to rule the cremains should be released to Holly.

“It’s really a sad situation,” Vitale Arnold said.

She said there is little case law on the subject. Ohio law does spell out a priority ranking order of relatives who can make funeral decisions. But within that hierarchy, parents are considered one unit, not separately as mom and dad.

Eugene “Trey” Wackerly, III, of the funeral home, said families sometimes go through periods of disagreement when arranging funerals, but usually it gets worked out. He can’t recall a situation, such as this, which has landed in court.

“I like both parties ... I know both families,” Wackerly said.

Nathan Katusin died from a gunshot wound to the head on Jan. 4. He was one month shy of his 20th birthday. The Stark County Coroner’s Office ruled his death a suicide. His obituary in The Canton Repository noted: “He was often running from his struggles and would always find his way back. This time he just ran too far.”

“The idea was to have him cremated, so he could be buried with me when the time came,” Holly Katusin said.

A Probate Court filing lays out arguments that Holly Katusin alone is entitled to the cremains, including:

• She paid the funeral bill.

• She and Kasey divorced in 2000 when Nathan was still a baby. She stated Kasey failed to maintain a consistent relationship with his son and was an absentee father.

• She said Kasey is in arrears on child support and medical expenses.

Kasey Katusin declined to comment for this story.

Holly Katusin said she hopes her ex-husband won’t contest the court action, called a declaratory judgment. In the court filings, her attorney cites several sections of state law that appear to give county probate judges authority to rule in all post-death disputes.

“I just want to bring him home,” Holly Katusin said. “He would not want to be on a shelf in a strange home.”

She said she also wants state lawmakers to tighten the statutes to better define a “parent” in such situations.

 

Reach Tim at 330-580-8333 or tim.botos@cantonrep.com.

On Twitter: @tbotosREP