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Cemetery owner arrested

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    Friday, October 4 2013 3:43 PM EDT2013-10-04 19:43:45 GMT
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Bartlett, Tenn. -

The owner of Galilee Memorial Gardens Cemetery in Bartlett was arrested Friday on charges of theft of property over $1,000 and abuse of a corpse for allegedly burying multiple bodies in the same graves without proper permission to do so, Shelby County Dist. Atty. Gen. Amy Weirich said.

Jemar Lambert, 38, was arrested by investigators with the District Attorney's Office, who also executed a search warrant for burial records in the cemetery office.

Last year, Lambert was indicted on charges of theft of property over $60,000 for allegedly selling burial plots to bereaved families on adjacent land not owned by the cemetery that encompasses about nine acres at 8283 Ellis Road.

He is scheduled to be in Criminal Court on Feb. 13 on that case.

In connection with Friday's action, the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance, which regulates cemetery and funeral home practices, filed a request for a temporary restraining order shutting down cemetery operations.

"We are sensitive to the importance of Galilee Memorial Gardens to countless families and to our community," Weirich said Friday. "We will continue working with the Department of Commerce and Insurance to resolve this situation respectfully and effectively."

The search warrant and new arrest stem from an investigation that began in November when a search for a missing body led those helping with the search to make a report to the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance. 

That report indicated the cemetery had improperly buried the remains of three different individuals in the same grave on March 9 and March 12 of last year.

The search warrant seeks cemetery files, computer records and electronic or digital storage data used to record information related to potential criminal acts involving the burial records kept by the cemetery.

In Nashville, Department of Commerce and Insurance Commissioner Julie Mix McPeak and the Tennessee Attorney General's Office also filed a petition asking a Davidson County court for an order appointing the commissioner as receiver for Galilee Memorial Gardens.  

"We believe that the owners and proprietors of Galilee Memorial Gardens cannot act in the best interest of the community," said McPeak. "This is a complex process that involves many moving parts. Know that we are working alongside the Shelby County District Attorney General's Office to identify the extent of issues with Galilee."

Anyone with questions about the status of pre-need contracts or other consumer inquiries regarding Galilee can contact the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance's Burial Services Section at 615-741-5062.

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