Galilee’s future set for Aug. 17 court discussion

Stock photo of the Galilee Memorial Gardens’ closure, taken Jan. 29, 2014.

The troubled Galilee Memorial Gardens of Bartlett will be the topic of a status conference Aug. 17 in Davidson County
Chancery Court. The latest report indicates that years of investigation could end soon without pinpointing where all the bodies are buried and without allowing future burials for those who have already purchased plots.

The document, Galilee’s ninth interim report since going into receivership, also states that Galilee can’t return to commercial viability. The grounds are unstable and inaccurately documented.

The cemetery hit the news in 2014 when owner Jemar Lambert was arrested on allegations that the business mishandled corpses
(including stacking coffins in the same grave plot because of the scarcity of space in the cemetery), as well as having inaccurate financial and burial records.

The story grew when news broke that Lambert illegally buried some bodies on adjacent land he didn’t own. In 2015 he pleaded guilty and received 10 years’ probation.

The failure to use and bury according to Galilee’s maps and spacing makes it difficult to predict whether a grave space is wide or long enough to be used. Using equipment at the cemetery for further evaluation could be hazardous.

The report noted, “Many older graves did not use vaults or outer-burial containers, resulting in many areas in which the ground is not stable, with significant sinking. It is believed that some burials are less than two inches deep, resulting in caskets and vaults directly bearing the weight of any digging equipment that enters the cemetery.”

Galilee has 3,500 marked graves and 7,725 occupied but unmarked graves. That means there are more than two unmarked graves for every visible grave. Another 1,102 gravesites aren’t useable because of inadequate space or other conditions.

Varying soil types in parts of the cemetery hampered the use of GPR Services Inc.’s ground-penetrating radar to inspect grave spaces. The report did, however, state, “The scan by GPRS appears to corroborate reports of stacked burials and mass grave areas, as well as evidence of the overall fullness of the cemetery and misaligned burials.”

An estimated 313 pre-sold spaces may be available in the cemetery, and there is a heavily treed section that could be reclaimed for burial purposes, but the report recommends no further burials.

The state had spent about $432,624.75 on the cemetery’s receivership as of a June 17 report.

See the ninth interim report on Galilee—as well as copies of lot plats, mapping of sections of the cemetery, a searchable spreadsheet showing the status of each grave space and the name marked on the grave (if any), and other records—online at

Written by Carolyn Bahm, Express editor. Contact her at (901) 433-9138 or via email to