Sunday, May 20, 2001

Judge halts new burials


Investigation into resold plots begins

The Associated Press

        LEXINGTON — A circuit judge ruled that new burials in Cove Haven Cemetery are to be put on hold until they are approved by an archaeologist and the cemetery proves that the plots are not being resold.

        Fayette Circuit Judge Mary Noble made the ruling on Friday.

        Officials in Attorney General Ben Chandler's office went to court Friday seeking a restraining order against the cemetery. They allege that graves in the historic African-American cemetery have been resold and bodies buried in previously occupied grave spaces.

        At least three state laws involving the violation of graves, abuse of a corpse or reselling occupied plots have been broken, according to a complaint filed in Fayette Circuit Court. However, no charges had been filed.

        Dwight Hughes, a representative of Cove Haven Inc. named in the complaint, was not available for comment.

        At least 10 families have complained to the attorney general's office that they can't locate the bodies of their loved ones, said Todd Leatherman, director of the Consumer Protection Division of the attorney general's office.

        “There now appears to be a number of graves which may have been used multiple times,” according to the court complaint. “A number of grave markers have been moved in the cemetery for no apparent, legitimate reason.”

        Consumers buying plots aren't told that “many or all of the spaces have previously been sold and contain human remains,” the complaint said.

        Human bones, and in one case pieces of coffins from the 1920s, were in plain view at the site of at least two separate recent burials at Cove Haven, the complaint said. In one site, there was a female and a male African-American in his 60s, according to an affidavit signed by University of Louisville archaeologist Philip DiBlasi.

        Ms. Noble directed Mr. Leatherman and other officials to contact funeral home directors and family members of those persons scheduled to be buried this weekend.

        Families who proceed with burials this weekend should be aware that the coffins might have to be dug up later, Ms. Noble said.

       



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