SACLEPEA, Nimba â€“ The remains of an 11-year-old rape victim in Nimba has been turned over to her family for burial after the government has failed to pay more than US$10,000 in fees owed to a Saclepea funeral home.
Verolyn Luogon, a sixth-grade student from the Johnny Voker High School in Saclepea, was reportedly raped by a 71-year-old Josiah Karwonin in her hometown of Bueh, about seven kilometers outside Saclepea. The incident took place in January 2019.
Karwonin was convicted of rape by the Eighth Judicial Circuit Court in Nimba and sentenced to 20 years in prison.
Following Luogonâ€™s death, her corpse was deposited at the Heaven Gate Funeral Home in Saclepea, where it had remained. But government prosecutors refused to settle related expenses at the funeral home. The management of the funeral home says it was left with no alternative but to release the victimâ€™s body to her family for burial.
Saye Larkpor, the proprietor of the funeral home, said he was disappointed over the governmentâ€™s failure to pay expenses it was supposed to pay. However, he offered to assist the victimâ€™s family by underwriting the cost of the funeral and burial.
â€œAs [a] citizen of this area, I have decided that my entity turns over the body to the family and we will also take care of all the other expenses that have to do with transportation, buying of coffin, etc.,â€ Larkpor said.
He said he was willing to forgo profit, and that his relationship with the community is more important than money. He said he was not sure whether members of the Nimba county administration, who deposited the corpse at his funeral home, had informed the central government of its obligation to his business.
Out of concern that if the corpse overstayed at the funeral home it could further traumatize the already grieving family, Larkpor said he was moved to turn the body over to the family.
“The family doesn’t have any money to settle us as you all are aware that the deceased’s single mother earns her living by subsistence farming,â€ he added.
The Community Health Education Social Services, a childâ€™s rights advocacy group which advocated for a fair trial in the case, has since lauded the funeral home for its humanitarian gesture toward the family and remained supportive of the deceased family.
Luogon was laid to rest on Feb. 8 in Bueh, within Nimbaâ€™s seventh electoral district.
Featured photo by Olivier Asselin/UNICEF