Man accused of impersonating funeral director

2012-12-06T22:00:00Z Man accused of impersonating funeral directorBy JONATHAN EDWARDS / Lincoln Journal Star

One man, two strange allegations.

Lincoln police arrested Terry Kurtzhals on Tuesday on suspicion of impersonating a funeral director in an attempt to steal his dead fiancée's engagement rings.

Kurtzhals, a 58-year-old convicted felon, also is suspected of voting in the Nov. 6 presidential election.

Two weeks later after the election, Lincoln police believe he went to Wadlow-Rozanek Funeral Home posing as a funeral director, Officer Katie Flood said.

On Nov. 21, police say, he went into Wadlow’s at about 10:15 a.m. sporting a funeral director’s name tag in his jacket pocket and told staff he was helping the family of Jessica Johnson, said Linda Hubsch of Wadlow's.

Johnson, 34, died Nov. 20, according to a friend, Elizabeth Hogrefe. Flood said police are waiting on toxicology reports to determine her cause of death.

Hogrefe said Johnson, whose funeral was Saturday, suffered from a number of ailments, including cancer and high blood pressure, and was on a powerful cocktail of prescription drugs.

“She was too young,” Hogrefe said. “She just fell asleep and didn’t wake up.”

Kurtzhals and Johnson met earlier this year, shortly after he got out of jail, and they had been engaged for a few months, Hogrefe said.

She said Kurtzhals had given Johnson rings police valued at about $500.

At Wadlow’s, police said, he asked to speak with the funeral director and demanded the rings. Hubsch told him she couldn’t give them to anyone without getting an OK from Johnson's family, but agreed to introduce him to Wadlow’s funeral director when he was available.

Kurtzhals also demanded Wadlow’s staff alert him when Johnson’s family came in so he could advise them.

“Everything he was doing was highly wrong,” Hubsch said. “Funeral directors just don’t do that. They just don’t act like that.”

Kurtzhals was a funeral director for 17 years, but the state revoked his license for disciplinary reasons in 1996, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services. Records on why he lost his license were not immediately available.

Hubsch said she made small talk by asking Kurtzhals where he worked but said he told her it was in a small funeral home she probably had never heard of. He continued to push her to give up the rings, yelling and insulting her, she said.

“He wouldn’t stop badgering me.”

Kurtzhals has served three prison sentences. He was released in January from a jail sentence for possessing burglar’s tools. As a convicted felon, he is not eligible to vote.

On Election Day, someone who knew that Kurtzhals was a felon spotted him at the Lancaster County Hall of Justice wearing an “I Voted Today!” sticker and alerted police.

On Wednesday, prosecutors charged him with impersonating a funeral director, election falsification and shoplifting. The impersonation charge is a misdemeanor and carries a sentence of three months in jail and a $500 fine. The voting charge is a felony and carries a sentence of as many as five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

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