Karen Greene met Gerald Pringle back in the mid-1990s when she was working as a bartender and cook at a local tavern.
Eventually the two became boyfriend and girlfriend and moved in together, and they remained boyfriend and girlfriend, through good and bad, for 16 years.
Pringle worked nearby, close enough to walk to work, Greene says, and he was good friends with a neighbor who worked in the same place. He called the neighbor his brother, she said.
Hed been married before, Greene said, and he had children, but he would never talk about his family or the marriage or why it broke up. He hadnt seen his children in decades.
A few years ago, Pringle had a stroke. He recovered, but for some reason he later quit making payments on the house where they lived on Pittsburg Street. Green said she had no idea until they got an eviction notice from the sheriffs department.
But the two got an apartment, and life went on.
In November, though, Greene noticed that Pringle wasnt doing well. She said she tried to get him to see a doctor, but he wouldnt.
Then, on Dec. 5, he went to bed early, and the dog accompanied him. A little while later, the dog came out and got Greene, who found Pringle not breathing. She said she called 911 and tried CPR, but when the ambulance arrived, they said it was too late.
Pringle had died.
The death was listed as natural causes – he had had a stroke and was on lots of medications – and his body (Greene said he wanted to be cremated) was picked up by a local funeral home.
Since then, more than a month has passed, and Green has found herself in a holding pattern.
Sure, the two had lived together for 16 years, but they werent married. Some states would classify them as having a common-law marriage, but most states, including Indiana, dont recognize common-law marriages.
So Greene is technically nothing more than an acquaintance or friend, and she cant claim the body. Relatives have to do that, but after a month, it hasnt happened.
I talked to the coroners office. According to state law, officials have to make a good-faith effort to locate and notify relatives, and from the statute, there doesnt seem to be any limit on the time it takes to locate relatives.
If a relative were to sign off and say they dont want to claim the body, Greene might be able to claim it. But then, Greene said she doesnt have the money to pay for arrangements. She cant even afford the rent on the apartment they shared. Pringle might have a little money in his bank account, but she couldnt access that to pay for arrangements, either.
Im heartbroken, she said. I cry every day.
The funeral home caring for Pringles remains said someone they described as a friend of the family has contacted them about Pringles remains, so there might be some conclusion.
Greene hopes so.
I just need closure, she said. It tears me up.