Cemetery investigations ongoing

BY LENA MITCHELL
Daily Journal Corinth Bureau

BALDWYN – One of two cemeteries in Prentiss County that have been embroiled for almost a year in legal disputes over ownership and upkeep says it plans to implement interim measures while the case remains active.

Secretary of State's Office attorney Cammie Wyatt told about 75 people who attended a meeting Tuesday that she is doing everything possible to have all of the affected cemeteries in the state consolidated into one case in which owners would face charges of fraud.

She also has filed for the cemeteries to be placed in receivership, where they could be sold to a new owner and properly managed and maintained.

Since last year, individuals with pre-arrangement contracts at Prentiss, Memorial Gardens, Baldwyn; Liberty Memorial Park, Booneville; Pinecrest Memorial Park, Calhoun City; and Sunset Gardens, Laurel, have filed complaints with the Secretary of State's Office saying those contracts are not being honored.

After sorting through hundreds of complaint forms filed by the contract owners, Wyatt said she has unraveled the trail of ownership and found Don Middleton, who now resides in Henderson, N.C., and James Rogers of Birmingham, Ala., to be owners of the properties.

“The trust funds for the properties were in their names, and now the money is gone,” Wyatt said. “It's a bad situation. You were robbed.”

While Wyatt has filed a civil consumer protection complaint, the Attorney General's Office continues its criminal investigation, in which she is not involved.

The next step
Individual owners at Prentiss Memorial Gardens have been maintaining their plots at the cemetery individually, though it's a service they already paid for.

At Tuesday's meeting they appointed a three-person committee to act on behalf of owners to keep operations running smoothly until legal issues are resolved.

“They'll open a bank account and advertise for donations to pay for keeping it up,” said Ellis Johnson, who has devoted himself to keeping the issue before the Secretary of State's Office and Attorney General's offices. “That's the main thing I've been fighting for since it started, so I'm real pleased.”

Contact Lena Mitchell at 287-9822 or lena.mitchell@djournal.com.