Front page | Classified |
Florida | Naples Daily News

E-mail this story.    Print this story.    Search for related stories.    Florida front | Florida archive | help

State inspecting other SCI cemeteries, plans to sue operator

Saturday, February 23, 2002

By AMANDA RIDDLE, Associated Press

WEST PALM BEACH — The state Attorney General's Office is inspecting several cemeteries owned by Service Corporation International and intends to sue the company as early as next week, officials said Friday.

The office began spot inspections this week at three SCI-owned cemeteries in South Florida.

It wants to know if alleged problems exist at cemeteries other than the two investigated after families filed a lawsuit in December charging grave desecration, said Stephen LeClair, an assistant attorney general in Fort Lauderdale.

Meanwhile, Attorney General Bob Butterworth is reviewing a draft complaint charging SCI with unfair and deceptive trade practices but had a few questions for investigators, said his aide John deGroot.

"Once those questions are answered, the claim will be filed," he said. He said it will be filed jointly by Butterworth and state Comptroller Bob Milligan, who regulates cemetery operations.

Relatives sued SCI in December, charging that the industry giant buried bodies in the wrong place, dumped remains in the woods and oversold plots at Menorah Gardens in suburban West Palm Beach and western Broward County.

The accusations sparked the state investigation.

SCI spokesman Don Mathis said the company knows of no problems at its other cemeteries, which have received favorable reports by state regulators in the past.

"Overall the audits have been very positive," he said. "The company's been very open to say, 'Go take a look at these,' even though they aren't a part of the case."

Mathis admits that the cemeteries' previous owners buried bodies in the wrong row but denies remains were moved or disturbed. He said SCI won't know the extent of the problem until it re-maps the graveyards, a process expected to last six to eight months.

SCI of Houston is the world's largest cemetery company. It owns 60 funeral homes and cemeteries in Florida.

State investigators have begun to inspect Hillcrest Memorial Park in West Palm Beach, South Dade Memorial Park in Miami and Forest Lawn Funeral Memorial Gardens Central in Fort Lauderdale.

The team examined burial records at all three sites and randomly probed a dozen Miami gravesites with a metal rod to confirm whether burial vaults were in the correct spot.

"In each instance, everybody was where they were supposed to be," LeClair said.

Investigators plan to return to the cemeteries to review more documents and continue probing the ground. LeClair said they planned to visit another seven cemeteries in the coming weeks. He didn't immediately have access to a list of the other locations.

By comparing burial contracts to interment documents, officials can determine whether the purchaser of a plot is the person actually buried in that space. Attorneys representing families who sued SCI claim hundreds of bodies are buried in the wrong location at the two Menorah Gardens cemeteries.

LeClair said it's too early in the inspections to determine if the alleged botched burials extend to other locations.

"I find the results that we had at South Dade very encouraging," LeClair said. But "while that is an extremely positive sign to me, it's not a representative enough sampling for me to draw any meaningful conclusions."

E-mail this story.   E-mail this story to a friend.

Print this story.   Format this story for printing.

Search for related stories.   Search our archive for related stories:
advanced search

Go to today's Florida section front
Go to our 7-day Florida archive

Also in today's Florida section:
At 100, AAA stays relevant, bundles travel services with trust
Bond granted for Iranian caught at Miami airport with gun
Boynton Beach chiropractor found guilty of baseball bat beating
Broward mom believes 2 boys are responsible for son's drowning
Cemetery officials say radar probe shows graves not disturbed
Centenarian gets in minor crash outside driver's license office
Columbia blasts off on arduous Hubble servicing mission
Daytona Beach judges gives man 5 years for threatening judges
Democrat McBride says Bush lacks grip on state problems
Family of man killed in Aaliyah plane crash sue Virgin Records
Father of slain Bradenton family lunges at killer in guilty plea
Federal agents break up drug ring, one Orlando arrest
Florida attorney general sues SCI over cemetery practices
Florida to require most schools to teach phonics
Florida unemployment rate drops first time in 16 months
Former Florida Gov. Bryant dead at 87
Four plead guilty in drug case that led to search of O.J.'s home
Legislature: Bill giving Miccosukee police power advances to House floor
Legislature: House moves a little here, a little there in $48 billion budget
Panhandle club dropping false prosecution suit
Plane crashes en route from Florida; pilot killed, wife injured
Sarasota businessman faces drug paraphernalia charges in Iowa
Two indicted Miami officers plead innocent

E-mail the staff
Write a letter to the editor
View our directory of Daily News staff
Sign up to receive our free Digital Digest by e-mail

Send a Daily News reporter a story suggestion

Faxed from:

Directory of Advertisers

Free Email - Click Here

Wink Television

Send an electronic postcard to somebody you know.

Save at local area businesses.

Ad Rates:
For Naples Daily News and

CD Business Cards
Impress your business associates and clients with this new sales tool

Manage your advertising account payments

Circulation Customer Service
Use our NEW automated WEB service to report delivery problems, start or stop delivery, change of address and for any other reason you need to contact the circulation department.

Scripps logo
Copyright © 2002 Naples Daily News. All rights reserved.
Published in Naples, Florida. A Scripps newspaper.
Please read our user agreement and privacy policy.