By Lena Mitchell/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – A Booneville cemetery formerly owned by Wayne Hight of Corinth has been sold back to a private businessman.
Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann made the announcement during a news conference at his Tupelo office on Tuesday.
Jeff Rencher, former Alcorn County District 3 supervisor, bought the cemetery, which had been operated by a court-appointed receiver for more than a year.
“When our agency was first named as receiver of Oaklawn, the books, records and finances of this cemetery were in shambles,” Hosemann said. “Our staff has worked diligently to piece this property back together for public sale. Our goal has always been to return Oaklawn to private ownership.”
Terms of the purchase included a $3,456 cash payment, a 25 percent discount on burial containers or burial vaults for individuals with previous Oaklawn pre-need contracts, and a minimum discount of 30 percent up to a maximum of 50 percent for grave opening and closing for individuals with Oaklawn pre-need contracts.
Rencher was the only bidder, Hosemann said, after the secretary of state’s office had reached out to churches and other cemeteries to solicit bids. The change of ownership was concluded late last week.
Former cemetery owner Wayne Hight was sentenced in January to serve four years of a 20-year sentence after pleading guilty to four counts of embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars in pre-need burial funds from two cemeteries he owned in Prentiss and Alcorn counties.
The Alcorn County cemetery, Forrest Memorial Park, remains in receivership, although one major financial barrier has been resolved, Hosemann said.
Forrest Memorial was encumbered with a debt to the U.S. Small Business Administration of $500,000, and that has been settled, he said.
Remaining is a lien held by SouthBank. Hosemann said SouthBank has foreclosed on all properties surrounding the cemetery, and he is hopeful they will foreclose on the cemetery as well, thereby putting it back in their ownership for disposition. Rencher also submitted a bid on that property.