Two former funeral home owners accused of mishandling hundreds of thousands in pre-need funeral service funds have been set to appear for an in-person preliminary hearing in 1st District Court.
Lonnie Kent Nyman, 46, and Kent Lloyd Nyman, 73, appeared in court on Wednesday for a scheduling conference regarding the preliminary hearing.
During their appearance, Judge Angela Fonnesbeck set the in-person hearing for April 15 after ironing out a number of logistical issues with counsel. Per CDC guidelines, Fonnesbeck said only 20 people, including staff, attorneys and witnesses could be present in the courtroom at any given time. Parties interested in viewing the proceedings will be allowed to do so via Webex, Fonnesbeck said.
Defense attorney Cara Tangero told the court Lonnie — who is currently being held at the Utah State Prison in Gunnison — did not wish to attend the hearing in-person.
“Being transported from Gunnison is really arduous,” Tangero said.
Though the hearing will be conducted in-person, Fonnesbeck allowed Lonnie to participate in virtually from the prison.
“I know these are complicated matters,” Fonnesbeck said to counsel. “I appreciate your efforts”
During a hearing in January, Assistant Attorney General Ryan Holtan requested the cases against the Nymans move forward in-person despite COVID-19 restrictions on the court. Holtan told the court the sheer number of aging victims warranted such a hearing.
At the time, Fonnesbeck held off on finding the exigent circumstances required to hold an in-person hearing during the pandemic but indicated she was inclined to do so provided the attorneys have discussions regarding how to facilitate the hearing.
Charges were filed against the Nymans on Jan. 16, 2020. Lonnie and Kent each face multiple second-degree felonies related to the alleged misappropriation of $772,000 intended for pre-need funeral arrangement trust funds.
An affidavit filed with the court states 111 alleged victims purchased pre-need arrangements from the Nyman Funeral Home and the money — required by state law to be deposited into a trust account — was placed in an account used for general operation of the funeral home.
Police wrote 100 alleged victims were over the age of 65.