State granted request to take over troubled cemetery - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

State granted request to take over troubled cemetery

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    Friday, October 4 2013 3:43 PM EDT2013-10-04 19:43:45 GMT
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BARTLETT, Tenn. (FOX13) -

UPDATE: 

Galilee Memorial Garden's Pandora's Box is wide open, as more families come forward asking where is my loved one?

Another Memphis law firm is going after the cemetery owner and anyone related to desecrating bodies on the property.

MORE: $100 million lawsuit filed against cemetery, funeral homes

MORE: Lawyer: State was aware cemetery operated without certification

At least a hundred Memphis families are being represented by the Cochran Firm.

Three families were at the press conference held this morning, all with family buried at Galilee between 2012 and 2013.

The potential plaintiffs all spoke, Charles Branch, "We waited, they never did do nothing, we left the cemetery when we left the cemetery her casket was still out they hadn't started to put her down or nothing."

Angela Watkins says,"We stood around for a minute to see where he was going to be buried. I don't know where my father is out there we left his casket and body still sitting there."

Regina Simmons had this to say, "That's not a funeral, it's not right a funeral is when you lower the body you get to see the body go in the ground. You know where the person is at we didn't get that none of that."

A cemetery is the final resting place for family to say goodbye to their loved ones, to know they're in one place and at peace.

The families with loved ones buried at Galilee Memorial Gardens in Bartlett. All looking to file a lawsuit against the cemetery, owner Jemar Lambert and anyone connected.

Cochran Firm Attorney Elbert Jefferson Jr says,  "This issue is bigger than the cemetery owners and we have already dispatched human resources in investigating other potential defendants."

Families are trying to discover, if Jemar Lambert buried the dead, placed bodies on top of one another or buried on land not owned by the cemetery. Attorney Jefferson says he looking back to 1993, when the Lambert family took over the property. In 2010, the State of Tennessee deemed the cemetery at capacity, yet more than 200 plots were sold and burials were still being held up until the property was shut down in January of this year.

"We believe that's why family members were told you need to leave because if the family members couldn't see lowering of the body, if they did they would see another casket was under there," according to Jefferson.

Regina Simmons, another victim says, "My father he's sick, he wants to buy a headstone for my mother, but why buy it when we don't know where to put it."

The Cochran firm is expected to file in less than 30 days; it will probably be a class action lawsuit.

Another Memphis firm filed a class action lawsuit against Galilee in Chancery Court at the beginning of the week for two plaintiffs seeking 100-million dollars.

Also former U.S. Attorney David Kustoff has been named deputy receiver of Galilee, which means he will be in charge of unearthing who's really buried at this cemetery.

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(previous story)

The State of Tennessee is taking over the troubled Galilee Memorial Gardens.

A judge Okayed the move ordering the state to make it a priority to find out "who is buried where" and make sure people who have bought "pre-need" services are properly served.

The cemetery was closed last month after charges of improper burials.

The judge also gave the state authority to relocate bodies that may have been buried improperly. A progress report is due in the next thirty days.

Families of people buried at Galilee are suing the owner in a 100-million dollar class-action lawsuit.

This morning, lawyers representing families held a press conference to discuss the case.

Memphis attorney Howard Manis says there are accusations of bodies buried on top of other corpses and theft. There was also a restraining order against the current owner Jemar Lambert, to stop burying bodies on someone else's property.

Atty. Howard Manis said, "after the restraining order was entered, another twenty bodies were buried on that property, so they violated the restraining order, stayed open and nothing was done."

Jemar Lambert is expected to face a judge this week in criminal court for selling burial plots to families for land not owned by the cemetery.

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