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Family member upset indicted coroner buried grandchild in pauper cemetery

Monday, March 31, 2014 6:18 PM
Last updated Tuesday, April 1, 2014 7:14 AM
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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.

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Former Coroner Grover Tuten is accused of stealing burial payments for Shane Hobbs, who died in October 2012.  TODD BENNETT/FILE
Former Coroner Grover Tuten is accused of stealing burial payments for Shane Hobbs, who died in October 2012.

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.

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thauch12 03/31/14 - 10:59 pm
This is a really sad story in

This is a really sad story in multiple ways and I feel terrible for the family going through all this. But some of this is another one of those pieces in the AC that's starting to make this paper sound a little too sensationalist...

1. The article implies the MCG hospital did something wrong in taking steps to protect the boy's confidentiality. It only makes sense that they would operate with the assumption the coroner (a public servant) would handle the boy's burial in line with the wishes of the family and applicable law. Does anyone actually expect them to have the resources to investigate every single request of this kind that they get, especially when called in over the phone?

2. "The city should be responsible for moving him to the family’s Hillcrest plot.” Grover Tuten, more specifically his bank account, should be responsible for this! He committed the crime and bungled his job. But of course, the city has deeper pockets (who needs rainy day funds anyway, right?).

tl-bro 04/01/14 - 05:51 am

I think this is also an example of medical privacy gone too far. It's insane to think that a hospital can't disclose the info to Ms. Hobbs. The HIPPA regs have been carried to an extreme and lead to these unfathomable results.

corgimom 04/01/14 - 09:31 am
MCG didn't have any choice,

MCG didn't have any choice, the laws are very specific as to who they can disclose information to.

Stepparents and stepgrandparents don't have any rights, they are just like a stranger. Whoever was his guardian could've given her notarized written permission for MCG to disclose to her, then it would've been ok.

PrayN4U 04/01/14 - 11:31 am

Why was Tuten allowed to resign? Why wasn't he fired? He did far worse the Fred Russell and he was fired? The "good ole boy" system may give him a slap on the wrist but when he stands before his final judgement he will answer for all the lives he has caused to suffer. Why can't his father request a release from MCG? He may be in prison but he should be able to grant the stepgrandmother authorization.

CobaltGeorge 04/01/14 - 12:14 pm
How Many Like Many Others,

that this will be the last follow up or article from AC on this issue??

Darby 04/01/14 - 12:33 pm
Beginning to think this

guy shouldn't have been allowed to handle anything more important that cleaning toilets.

And then only with close supervision.

Guntoter 2
Guntoter 2 04/01/14 - 01:01 pm
No Sympathy

Tuten just another old crook who got caught with his hands in the cookie jar..too many times doing the same wrong the covers was snatched offa him and some long jail time should be the order of the for me I have zero sympathy for him STEALING from the dead. Do the the time.

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