MASSILLON, Ohio — Shawnna and her husband, Sgt. 1st Class Robert "Bobby" Wornstaff, had prepared for this day many times.
"We didn't know when we left that day at the hospital," she remembered. "That would have been the last time that we saw him. So we were robbed."
Sgt. Wornstaff was a combat veteran who served three tours of duty in Iraq. He received multiple honors for his service, including a bronze star.
"I knew that it was important to him to have a service with them, in his military uniform," Shawnna said.
But even with 21 years of service, it was how Robert died that Shawnna didn't expect.
While working for Massillon's Parks and Recreation Department, the 1,500-pound mower he was operating in Reservoir Park rolled over, pinning him for at least 30 minutes. He was brain dead, and his family—wanting to preserve his dignity—let him pass away.
"That day started like any other day," Shawnna told us. "He thought I was asleep, but I wasn't, and he kissed me and left. I actually texted him when I got to work and told him, just thank you for kissing me every day before you leave."
For Shawnna, it was a horrific way to lose her high school sweetheart and father of her two teenage children. However, she never imagined how horrific things could really get until the coroner's office called to tell her she couldn't have an open casket at Robert's funeral.
According to the Stark County Coroner's report, in the 21 hours between the sergeant's death and the time the coroner got the body, Wornstaff smelled of decomposition. Additionally, there were fluids coming from his nose and mouth, and his body had turned green.
"There's only a few options here," Tom Merriman, an attorney representing the family, stated. "Either equipment failed to keep the body cold, or someone just didn't do their job, didn't care and blew it off."
Merriman filed a lawsuit Tuesday, alleging Aultman Hospital in Canton (where Bobby died) violated Ohio law by not taking proper care of the body.
"He was more than just a dad to me," Bobby's son Hayden said. "I could easily say he was my best friend."
Sgt. Wornstaff's soul left this world at only 44 years old because of a freak accident. It appears his body was not taken care of in a manner worthy of his legacy.
"This shouldn't happen to anybody, let alone somebody who was a war hero," Shawnna declared.