Galilee cemetery needs major work, report says

Photo by Carolyn Bahm
Galilee Memorial Gardens remains a crime scene as investigators determine the extent of problems and how to address them.

Jemar Lambert
Galilee owner
A 37-page report details the problems at Galilee Memorial Gardens in Bartlett, including crushed caskets, at least 81 bodies in multiple-occupant graves, and missing bodies.

In 2013, Galilee’s owner hired Derrick Gunn, owner of Gunn Funeral Home in Little Rock, Ark., to investigate and create the report in an attempt to help find two missing bodies.

One of the report’s conclusions was that the cemetery was designed for 16,425 plots but housed 16,700 graves by 2010, so no cemetery permit should have been issued as there were no remaining new burial spaces.

The report estimated that correcting the identified problems would take a funeral director and six trained employees working eight hours a day, six days a week, for 24 days.

The report further stated, “Cemetery management was very methodical in their approach as they attempted to give the grounds the appearance of via bility by recycling aged grave spaces and utilizing the aged spaces which they considered to be of adequate depth. It is my opinion that this was a desperate attempt to buy time and create the appearance of available space which was, in fact, not so, and while efforts to purchase adjacent properties were desperately sought; management’s attempt to purchase was thwarted for whatever reason, causing this situation to spiral out of control and result in lost interred remains.”

The Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance has been court-appointed as receiver of the cemetery, and attorney David Kustoff is acting as the deputy receiver at Galilee.

Owner Jemar Lambert remains in custody without bond on multiple criminal charges. Legal actions pending against him also include two class-action lawsuits, one for $100 million and another for $225 million.

UPDATE, March 6, 2014: The Attorney General’s Office has set up a web page dedicated to significant filings related to Galilee.