LAKE COUNTY, Fla. - A Navy veteran's family can give him the proper sendoff he deserves, more than a month after he died in his Lake County home.
Investigators said they found no evidence of foul play in 75-year-old Angelo Peluso's death, but since no one signed his death certificate, his family said they did not have access to his remains for five weeks.
The Medical Examiner's Office said because Peluso died of natural causes, per statute, his last known physician had the responsibility of signing the death certificate. However, for unknown reasons, the doctor refused.
Investigative reporter Karla Ray learned doctors can be fined up to $1,000 a day for refusing to sign a certificate.
The family said they just want the issue resolved and called 9 Investigates for help.
Before retiring to The Villages from New Jersey, Peluso served his country and loved his family.
"He was a retired U.S. Navy Reserve Commander," Peluso's niece, Denise Coyle said. "He had a lot of accomplishments in his life, and I can't believe this is how it ends. He doesn't deserve it."
Coyle spoke with 9 Investigates via Skype from New Jersey amid the family's fight to bring him home for a proper memorial service.
"The body has been sitting for five weeks and I can't seem to get it resolved," Coyle said.
Investigators declared Peluso dead inside his Lady Lake home on June 23 after his friend found him unresponsive.
A local Navy Veteran served his country, but when he died no one would sign his death certificate. @KRayWFTV investigates his family's fight and gets answers, Today at 5:45pm on #wftv. @GWarmothWFTV @MarthaSugalski pic.twitter.com/ayov9bayLr— WFTV Channel 9 (@WFTV) August 5, 2019
Lady Lake Police investigators stated: "There were no signs in the home of anything suspicious that may have led to Angelo's death, nothing in his room appeared out of place or disturbed, and there was no visible trauma to his body."
The medical examiner referred the case to Peluso's last known physician to sign the death certificate.
"I have never heard of someone passing away in the home and not having someone come to the scene to release the body," Coyle said.
According to the Medical Examiner's Office, they weren't advised until 2 1/2 weeks after Peluso's death that the doctor was refusing to sign the death certificate. Officials said five weeks after Peluso's death, they found out through 9 Investigates that his body was still at a cremation facility, unable to be released to his family.
"We're just here waiting, and it's been really difficult on my mom and her sisters," Coyle said.
After inquiries made by 9 Investigates, the medical examiner certified Peluso's death, meaning he'll be cremated and his family will finally be able to say goodbye.
"I do watch the news and realize that sometimes the only way to get things done is contact the news station," Coyle said.
Peluso's family received his death certificate over the weekend, and they expect his remains to arrive in New Jersey soon.
The doctor who refused to sign the death certificate has not returned 9 Investigates request for comment.
© 2019 Cox Media Group.