Police trying to solve mystery of lost ashes to return remains

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By Stephanie Jessie

 MOUNT WASHINGTON—When Mount Washington resident Elmer Newkirk told his wife he’d brought home another woman last fall, she wasn’t expecting that woman to be in a box.


To be fair, Newkirk wasn’t expecting the box to be someone’s ashes when he first saw it either.

“I was leaving my storage unit and saw a pile of discarded things in the lot,” he said. “That caught my eye because I thought it was a jewelry box.”

A sticker on the bottom of the solid cherry box read “Joyce Tabler”, but shared little other information.

Unsure what to do with it but knowing he couldn’t send it to the dump, Newkirk brought it home and started his search to find the owner.

“I talked to the Suburban Storage owner and he said it could be anyone,” Newkirk said.

He was told that people clean out their units and leave stuff behind all the time. The pile the urn was found in had already been sitting there for a few days when Newkirk stumbled upon it.

“It’s somebody,” Newkirk said. “You can’t just throw it away. It’s a human being’s remains. That’s why it’s so important. If it were a dog or a cat, it really wouldn’t matter as much. If it were my family, I wouldn’t want my mother or grandmother or somebody be left out there in in a garbage pile.”

A week later, Newkirk ran into Mount Washington Assistant Police Chief Rodney Hockenbury and asked him where he could take it.

Hockenbury offered the station as a temporary home and Newkirk’s wife dropped it off.

Since then, Hockenbury has tried multiple ways of finding the proper owners of the urn.

“We check online with people who hold the same last name in the Louisville area,” Hockenbury said. “We’ve made contact with a couple of them. They’ve taken the information and they’ve inquired into their family tree through different contacts, probably spanning different generations, and they’ve returned no results.”

The station has also tried online obituaries but, with only a name to go from, they haven’t gotten too far.

Considering the uniqueness of the name for this geographical area, Hockenbury said he is beginning to think that she isn’t local, something Newkirk thinks as well.

“You don’t know how old the person was,” he said. “You don’t know if they came from another state. You don’t know the reason they were in Mount Washington, but this city is too small for no one to know.”

After a tip from a local funeral home, Hockenbury opened the box to find a metal identification tag holding the plastic bag of ashes together. On the tag is an upside down “7” followed by “0203” and “75” on a second line.

“Any family who has ever lost a loved one knows that a final resting place is very important for closure,” Hockenbury said. “Just out of respect for the ones who came before us. I feel very confident that it was placed there unbeknownst to the true owner or by accident.”

With no results so far, Hockenbury is asking the community for their help in finding the remains its proper home: with the family that she belongs to.

“I hope there is somebody out there who will say ‘hey—that was my aunt, my grandmother, my kinfolk someway,” Newkirk said.

If you have any information on who Joyce Tabler might belong to, please contact the Mount Washington Police Department at 502-538-8143.