Cemetery shut down; owner charged with abuse of a corpse
(WMC-TV) - A cemetery is shut down after the owner was arrested, accused of "burying multiple bodies in the same graves without proper permission to do so."
Jemar Lambert, 38, who owns Galilee Memorial Gardens Cemetery in Bartlett, is charged with theft of property and abuse of a corpse.
This is not Lambert's first arrest.
Last year, he was charged with selling burial plots to families on land he did not own, which sat adjacent to the cemetery.
A temporary restraining order was filed since Lambert's most recent arrest, shutting down cemetery operations.
"We are sensitive to the importance of Galilee Memorial Gardens to countless families and to our community," Shelby County District Attorney Amy Weirich said in a written statement. "We will continue working with the Department of Commerce and Insurance to resolve this situation respectfully and effectively."
The search warrant was issued after an investigation that began when a search for a missing body led those helping in the search to file a report to the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance (TDCI). That report "indicated the cemetery had improperly buried the remains of three individuals in the same grave on March 9 and March 12 of last year."
In a statement provided by the TDCI, Commissioner Julie McPeak said, "We believe that the owners and proprietors of Galilee Memorial Gardens cannot act in the best interest of the community. Know that we are working alongside the Shelby County District Attorney General's Office to identify the extent of issues with Galilee."
Friday's new movement in the case against Galilee Memorial Gardens in Bartlett means another step toward possible justice for those with loved ones buried in the cemetery.
Ronica Matthews kept a program from her mother Earnestine's funeral last summer. She was buried at Galilee alongside other family members.
"There's no telling what's going on underneath the surface," she said. 'We kept getting the runaround as to where exactly the plot was ... Life is precious and even in death you still have to honor people, and I can't even fathom how they can put people through more stress, more pain, more anguish."
Investigators spent Friday searching the Galilee office while state officials secured a temporary restraining order for the cemetery's immediate closure.
Meanwhile, burials planned for this weekend cannot proceed for now.
The TDCI is prepared to handle questions regarding any upcoming burials. If you need to reach Burial Services, call 615-741-5062.
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