The stepgrandmother of Shane Hobbs, a mentally disabled adult who was laid to rest in the pauper section of Augusta’s Westview Cemetery, said former Richmond County Coroner Grover Tuten should never have handled the young man’s burial.
Carol Hobbs said her late husband, Bozzie Hobbs, had five spots reserved in a family plot at Hillcrest Cemetery in south Augusta.
One of the gravesites was for her stepgrandson, but instead of being buried with the family, as relatives wanted, court records show that Tuten was approved $1,995 in estate funds to bury the 26-year-old in the pauper section of the city-owned cemetery near Lake Olmstead.
An indictment returned by a Richmond County grand jury in January states that Tuten accepted the payment but failed to report it to Augusta administration for city reimbursement. The coroner has since resigned and pleaded not guilty to eight counts of theft and five counts of violation of oath of office.
“Shane did not deserve to be buried in the pauper section,” Hobbs said. “The city should be responsible for moving him to the family’s Hillcrest plot.”
Shane Hobbs is one of eight people from whom Tuten is accused of stealing vehicles, property and money.
He spent the last five years of his life in a Hephzibah group home undergoing physical therapy for a birth defect that prevented oxygen-rich blood from reaching his brain, said Jack Long, the Augusta attorney appointed to administer a structured settlement awarded to the Hobbs family in a medical malpractice case.
Hobbs died Oct. 28, 2012, at Georgia Regents Medical Center after getting pneumonia and being declared brain dead.
Carol Hobbs said she made numerous phone calls to GRU administrators to arrange a Hillcrest burial, as requested by her husband before his death in 2008, but was told on one occasion that because she was not Shane’s biological grandmother, his death was “none of her concern.”
“I tried everything I could,” Carol Hobbs said of making the burial happen. “No one would listen or return my calls.”
Robert C. Seibel, the associate general counsel and director of risk management at Georgia Regents Medical Center, said the hospital is not permitted to disclose information about how Shane’s body was disposed or why Carol Hobbs was not assisted in arranging a burial.
Seibel said Georgia Regents Medical Center has a legal obligation to maintain the privacy of confidential medical information even after the death of a patient, which in his opinion, most likely explains why Carol Hobbs was not successful in getting the information she requested.
“Our sincere hope is that this patient’s family finds the information they are seeking,” Seibel said. “Unfortunately, we are not at liberty to provide that information.”
Neither Long nor Tuten’s attorney, Danny Durham, returned phone messages Monday seeking comment.
Carol Hobbs said Shane Hobbs spent much of his childhood living with his grandparents, Bozzie and Cora Hobbs, and his father, Tony Randall Hobbs.
In September 2002, Cora Hobbs died. About a year later, Tony Hobbs was convicted in Richmond County for the armed robbery of a drugstore. He is scheduled to be released from Walker State Prison in September 2017, according to online records for the Georgia Department of Corrections.
After his father’s arrest, Shane’s only family contact came from Bozzie Hobbs, who would often visit him and bring him gifts while he was in the group home, or take him home for the weekend to spend time with him. Carol Hobbs, who married Bozzie Hobbs in 2003, said Shane would sit up and smile each time he saw his grandfather.
“He loved Shane with all his heart, mind and soul,” she said of Hobbs’ grandfather.
Records kept by the Augusta Department of Recreation, Parks and Facilities show Hobbs was buried Nov. 7, 2012, in a concrete-liner vault at Westview Cemetery, five miles from his planned gravesite.