Grave mistakes at Mid-South cemetery: sunken graves, double sold plots

Grave mistakes at Mid-South cemetery: sunken graves, double sold plots
(SOURCE: WMC Action News 5)
(SOURCE: WMC Action News 5)

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - The latest disciplinary action of the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance revealed grave mistakes at Memorial Park Southwoods on Hacks Cross Road.

State regulators issued fines and an order for the cemetery to clean up. The complaints ranged from sunken graves, double-sold plots, misspelled markers, and missing maps.

Theresa Glaser's mother was buried at the cemetery. She said her grief only worsened when she discovered her mother's tombstone engraved with the wrong last name.

"It was terrible, because I felt like they were disrespecting my mom. That's my mom. That's the one person you're with your whole life before you're born. And for them to do that to her, it was heartbreaking," said Theresa Glaser.

Her mother's headstone read Pauline White; her actual name is Pauline Willis Adams. It's one of several mistakes Glaser said the cemetery made.

She stated the problems didn't start with the wrong name. She explained that months prio,r her mother's name wasn't on the grave site at all. And to make matters worse, she said her mother's grave actually sank.

"It was sank down for a while. They did fix that after I told them about it. And then when I went in to tell them that the name was on there but was wrong, they were shocked that it was wrong," she explained.

A Tennessee Department of Commerce & Insurance disciplinary report obtained by the WMC Action News 5 Investigators reveals the state fined Memorial Park Southwoods $2,800 in January for failure to maintain a properly updated master map, a number of sunken graves, and failure to properly maintain the cemetery grounds. Documents also revealed the company failed to properly record cemetery lot sales, which resulted in double-sold lots. The civil penalty required the cemetery show proof of better upkeep going forward.

WMC Action News 5 investigators went with Glaser to visit her mother's grave site after the company paid the fine and said they would provide better maintenance. Although they corrected the misspelling, there was still no grass covering her mother's grave. We also noticed the grave directly beside her mom's was sunken in.

"I got the run-around for so long that I was just frustrated through the whole thing," she said.

The WMC Action News 5 Investigators have been in contact with the cemetery representative who responded to the state's disciplinary action.

He did, however, send a letter to the state department back in January. It read in part the company has "made a concerted effort to level off and backfill all sunken graves" and " we have instituted a procedure so that all new burials are tracked". He stated "proof that the cemetery has complied in this matter will be apparent".

But Glaser felt the company needed to do more.

"Just put some grass up there, make it right. Take care of it like they're supposed to," Glaser said.

Eleven Tennessee funeral homes or cemeteries were cited or fined during the latest round of state inspections

To read the Tennessee Department of Commerce & Insurance's disciplinary report, click here.

VP of Administration Frank Milles said that sunken graves are a "natural process" that takes place and the company was behind on re-filling the graves.

As for the double sold plots, he claimed they had an employee that was not doing her job and a couple of graves got sold twice. He believed this was an error on their part and said they found it and resolved the issue.

He strongly affirmed that they are doing the best job they can and they are happy to refund any money to unsatisfied customers.

He stated the employee that mistakenly sold graves was no longer with the company.

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