Stunning Grave Mix-Up Leads To $25 Million Lawsuit Against N.J. Cemetery
LINDEN, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – Two sisters from Rosedale, Queens are outraged after learning that the plot they’ve been visiting for over 20 years isn’t their mother’s grave.
Evelyn and Hortense Edwards were shocked to discover their mother, Beatrice, was buried in a different plot from the one they purchased at the Rosedale and Rosehill Cemetery in Linden, N.J., after she died in 1990.
First On 1010 WINS: The Sisters Tell Mona Rivera They Were Shocked
The discovery was made last June after the two complained the gravesite had fallen into disrepair.
A cemetery employee apparently told the sisters that, according to records, a man — not a woman — is buried in the site that the Edwards provided.
“I read her the lot number and she said, ‘That’s not your mother’s grave,’” Evelyn Edwards first told 1010 WINS’ Mona Rivera.
“I was shocked,” Hortense told CBS 2′s Don Dahler. “And then I said to her, you got to be kidding. For real? She said yes.”
The sisters claim Rosedale and Rosehill had provided them with a certificate indicating the lot, section and grave of their mother. They visited that site more than 100 times — every Mother’s Day, every May 3 (their mother’s birthday) and anytime they felt the need to be closer to her.
“We told her all the time we miss her, we love her,” Evelyn said.
After the mix-up was discovered, Rosedale and Rosehill told the sisters that it had provided them with the wrong documentation and that their mother was in fact buried elsewhere. Cemetery officials told the Edwards sisters in order to verify that their mother was in fact in the other plot her coffin would have to be retrieved.
In a letter to 1010 WINS’ Mona Rivera, the sisters’ lawyer, Stephen Drummond, said the cemetery forwarded a release to the Edwards asking them to assume all responsibility for the risk associated in retrieving the coffin.
This included any emotional distress caused to a third party if the coffin turned out not to be that of their mother, but the family member of someone else.
The sisters have filed a $25 million lawsuit in federal court in Brooklyn claiming breach of contract.
“Under the law, that money is simply to punish you, or hold you responsible so that you would not be inclined to do that again,” Drummond told Dahler.
According to the complaint, the sisters had been planning to share the single grave with their mother once they passed away and will now not be able to do so.
The complaint also states the sisters are not convinced the new grave location provided by the cemetery is correct and feel that their mother is not resting in peace.
The sisters say a piece of paper saying where their mother is, is not proof of where the body is. The cemetery has so far not actually physically located the body.
“I don’t want my mother there anymore, I don’t trust them,” Evelyn said. “Right now my concern is finding my mother’s grave.”
“We will seek a court’s order to get clarification as to exactly where (Beatrice Williams) is laid to rest,” Drummond said.
The complaint states the sisters have suffered emotional distress, mental anguish, pain and suffering after visiting, praying and laying flowers at the wrong gravesite for over two decades.
The Edwards sisters fear other families may also be victims of this situation and want to raise awareness.
“Even though her spirit is long gone, it’s somewhere to go, to hold onto for someone who has been a part of our lives, our entire lives, and with whom we intended to maintain a relationship forever. And they’ve taken that from us,” Evelyn told Dahler.
Drummond said he thinks the location of bodies all over the cemetery are now suspect. He plans to bring this matter to the attention of the New Jersey State attorney general to see if there are more victims.
Officials at Rosedale and Rosehill have not commented. According to the website, there are seven people named Beatrice Williams buried there.
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