Ludlow Police Chief Scott Smith and Detective Eric Love came to pay their respects Thursday to the teen they met only after his death.
But the two uniformed officers, who have been investigating the death of Joseph “Joey” Bishop, joined four other strangers as pallbearers to carry the 18-year-old’s body from the funeral chapel to the waiting hearse to go to the cemetery Thursday morning.
Bishop, who had Duchenne muscular dystrophy, died Feb. 11 from an infection caused by multiple bedsores discovered on his back, arms and legs after he was taken to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. He had been confined to his bed for months, and for years to a wheelchair. His mother, Jamie Bishop, 40, and his grandparents, Raymond Martin, 67, and Sharon Martin, 65, remain jailed on second-degree manslaughter charges in his death.
They asked a Kenton County judge Tuesday to attend the funeral, but the judge forbade that saying they were charged to care for “one sick child and let him rot” to death.
The Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services has opened a state investigation of caretaker neglect in the wake of Bishop’s death. In 2015, the cabinet earlier opened and closed a case involved Jamie Bishop and her son.
Teen’s last words: ‘Help me, mommy’
The case has stunned neighbors of the family, who said they didn’t know Bishop lived there with his mom, grandparents and younger sister for the past 18 months to two years. The prosecutor and the police are frustrated, saying Bishop did not appear to be on the radar of social services, schools or caregiving groups all of which could have helped.
Love, who interviewed Jamie Bishop, shook his head Thursday before the service when he recounted the teen’s last words to her: “Help me, mommy.”
But officiant Elgin Emmons told the three dozen or so mourners who came to the Ronald B. Jones Funeral Home in Ludlow to remember the teen with an infectious smile and love of video games and horror movies to “cherish the good memories.”
“God’s mercy is the reason Joey is standing with God today. I believe that. That is why I am here today,’’ said Emmons as he looked to Bishop’s 14-year-old sister. “God wants to wrap his arms around (you). He loves the mother and the grandparents.”
He drew on the Sermon on the Mount to offer support.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled,’’ he recited from the Book of Matthew. “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”
‘No perfect parents, no perfect children’
Emmons also encouraged family and friends to cherish the laughs and remember Bishop’s smile in the coming days, weeks and years.
Through tears, Pam Johnson, a co-worker of Jamie Bishop, read a letter to Bishop that said each day an angel would reach out and help him in his journey.
“All of your angels will be protective and giving. Your reason for life, you are now living,” she said. “Whenever you need them, whenever the day, you’ll always be an angel Joseph. It is now your life, your way.”
And then she turned to his sister and told her: “There are no perfect parents. There are no perfect children, but there will always be those moments and memories you should always cherish.
“May God bless you,” she said, “And may all your dreams come true.”
Joe Volz, the fiancee to Bishop’s aunt, said the case and Bishop’s care is far more complicated than what has been reported. He said Bishop’s mother and grandparents loved him. It remained unclear if Bishop’s sister is staying with relatives or remains in foster care as police continue the investigation.
But at Highland Cemetery in Fort Mitchell, she was joined by her aunt and cousins around his blue casket as they released blue balloons into the sky and his casket was lowered into the ground.
The grave will not be marked — at least for now — by a headstone, family friend Terrie Collins-Laytart said, because community donations went to help defray a portion of the funeral and burial costs.