Tenn. cemetery accused of stacking remains

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Relatives of people buried at a Tennessee cemetery are suing its owner and funeral homes that sent bodies there, alleging the cemetery moved remains without permission and stacked several caskets in one plot.

A complaint filed Sunday claims Galilee Memorial Gardens operated without a valid license, misplaced or lost track of buried remains and stacked multiple caskets in single burial plots — sometimes by crushing caskets to make them fit.

The suit was filed by lawyers for relatives of two people buried at the cemetery in suburban Bartlett, outside Memphis. Two funeral homes that sent bodies to Galilee for burial also are being sued, with plaintiffs alleging they should have been informed that family members were being sent to an unlicensed cemetery.

The lawsuit seeks class-action status for relatives of people buried at the cemetery since Dec. 31 2010, when the suit claims the cemetery’s license expired. The class could number into the hundreds.

Cemetery owner Jemar Lambert was arrested Jan. 24 on charges that three bodies were buried in the same grave without permission. He has a court hearing scheduled for Tuesday on charges of abuse of a corpse and theft.

In a separate case, Lambert was indicted last year on charges that he sold burial plots to families on adjacent land not owned by the cemetery.

The Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance requested that a judge appoint a receiver to take control of the cemetery and look into its records and locations of buried bodies. A judge in Nashville granted the request Monday.

Lambert’s lawyer in the criminal case did not immediately return a call seeking comment. A telephone line for one of Lambert’s businesses named in the suit was disconnected. The Associated Press could not immediately determine who is representing Lambert in the civil case.

Edgar Miller, chief of operations for N.J. Ford and Sons Funeral Home, declined comment. A message left seeking comment from M.J. Edwards Funeral Home was not immediately returned.

Plaintiff’s lawyers also are seeking damages up to $100 million.

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