New court documents filed Tuesday in Davidson County gave an updated look at Galilee Memorial Gardens in Bartlett, a cemetery in disarray after many months of abuse and mismanagement allegations.
A filing by the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance notes that the cemetery’s receiver has tentatively decided not to remedy the cementery’s burial errors. The reasons include:
- The unavailability of reliable data.
- The daunting legal challenges of getting permissions to disinter bodies.
- The lack of proper platting or consistent numbering for some sections of the cemetery.
- The extreme costs involved in such an effort.
To read those court documents, see:
- Fourth Interim Report of the Special Deputy Receiver for Galilee Memorial Gardens, April 23, 2015 (PDF format, 33 pages)
- Exhibit 1 to the Fourth Interim Report (PDF format, 9 pages)
Scandals began erupting in 2013 over adjacent land theft when there was no more room for burials.
Gruesome allegations emerged about multiple bodies buried in the same spot, buried caskets being crushed to make more room and recordkeeping that did not keep adequate track of where bodies were within the cemetery.
The property is currently in receivership and still closed to public access.
Owner Jemar Lambert pled guilty in March to the charge of illegal use of someone else’s land, and he was sentenced to probation in the criminal case against him. A civil class action suit is still pending.
Robert E. Moore Jr., chief operations officer for Receivership Management Inc. and special deputy receiver, has reviewed the business records, performed an on-site plat and grave space inspection of the first two rows in the Garden of Paradise section, conducted a general inspection of the cemetery and has reviewed other information provided to him.
He noted, “… Lot and Space reporting was inconsistent and, without a map, the reporting is almost pointless.”
He recommended that an on-site grave space inspection be performed on the whole cemetery with the owner or another informed person providing on-site assistance in marking and platting the cemetery so that complete maps can be developed and marked grave spaces recorded.
The recommendation is that only the spaces previously sold on a pre-need basis in the Garden of Gethsemane be allowed, and only after the space has been located and determined to be vacant.
Moore wrote, “Absent a process to establish these future use rights in the Garden of Gethsemane, the cemetery should be closed to further burials and be deemed abandoned.”
His findings included, in part:
- The interment card catalog did not appear to have been maintained past the early 2000s.
- A new database with more than 26,000 lines of data has been created to consolidate several separate recordkeeping systems.
- Recorded interments are listed at 10,682, which is 1,708 spaces more than originally platted. It is also 892 spaces more than the expansions would provide.
- Records were inconsistent when burial forms and purchase files were compared.
- At least in two of the spaces (Garden of Paradise and Garden of Devotion) two to three people were recorded as buried in the same space.
- There are spaces that clearly contain occupied but unmarked graves.
- Removal of the paved road to the rear of the cemetery between November 2013 and November 2014 created a hazardous condition for walking and limited access to the rear of the cemetery. The recommendation is to at least re-grade and gravel the road to a usable condition.
- Large numbers of gravestones do not appear to have been permanently set and simply sit on top of the ground. Other stones appear scattered. There also are several stacks of stones near the office.
- Two of the eight sections were not professionally platted, and no plat map for the Garden of Hope section was provided. Three sections had no professional mapping supplied.
- The Garden of Gethsemane and Garden of Paradise sections were expanded beyond their platted maps (688 grave spaces for Garden of Para-dise and 128 for Garden of Gethsemane).
Written by Carolyn Bahm, Express editor. Contact her at (901) 433-9138 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.