NBC12 investigates tombstone complaints in Petersburg

By Diane Walker - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

PETERSBURG, VA (WWBT) – A tombstone business was paid but has yet to deliver headstones to some unmarked graves. Grieving families called 12 on Your Side for help getting a marker or their money.

"Hess-Trigard Burial Vaults and Memorials" operated on South Crater Road in Petersburg. The building is now in the hands of the bank. Some paid for tombstones never made it to the graves and that's prolonging the pain for grieving families.

A dozen people, possibly more, are demanding a refund from "Hess-Trigard Burial Vaults and Memorials," including William Watkins who is worried about his wife of 53 years, buried in an unmarked grave.

"I can't leave her there lying in the ground without a tombstone. It's very disappointing for me to go to my wife's grave and no marker's there," said Watkins. "I am troubled that there are people out there that would be in business and sell you a product and take your money and not deliver the product."

Allege victims lost varying amounts...some $2,500. Headstones paid for, but never placed on graves of wives, mothers, even a young hero, who died blocking a friend from a bullet.

"The headstone should be in this area, right in here," said Phyliss Tolliver. "It was important to me to get one with her picture on it."

The death of Phyliss Tolliver's baby girl got national attention. Buried at 19, Jessica was shot to death using her body as a shield to protect a friend. Intense grief consumes her family once again.

"I first come out here looking for my daughter's grave and I couldn't find it. My daughter's grave, it was unmarked," said Jessica's father Orlando Tolliver.

"The headstone that I picked out for her; that's what I want to see out here," said Phyliss.

Phyliss gave Hess-Trigard partial payment for her daughter's headstone, agreeing to pay the balance upon delivery. She doubts now she'll ever get back her deposit or see a marker.

"Thank God that I did not give him the whole price of a headstone. I'm out of $1,050.20," she said.

Also demanding accountability, Lawrence Corrigan. The $2,200 tombstone he purchased for his wife of 46 years was never delivered.

"If I have to live on the streets, she's gonna have a headstone," Corrigan said. "Here's the bank statement with the check that I paid them. I paid them on the 21st in the morning and they cashed it that night."

Corrigan says excuses are all he got from Ron Hess, of 'Hess-Trigard' and his staff when he started checking the status of his order.

"All I got was the run around. He'd tell me 'It's coming the end of December. The truck broke down.' I don't think it was ordered," Corrigan said.

The Hess's aren't talking to give the failed business side. Neither is the registered agent. The SCC terminated the business January 31, 2011 for not paying registration fees and filing a report. Also, the listed owner is Beverly Sue Hess, not Ronald Hess, the man customers say they dealt with. Here, he was in court on an unrelated matter and would not talk about tombstones.

Kathy Dibble is helping a Florida friend whose mother died here.

"He should have been shut down a long time ago," said Dibble. "To take advantage of somebody that's grieving. It's horrible."

On our last visit to the business address, I walked up on a bounty hunter, with his gun, handcuffs and partner, changing locks on the Crater Road building.

Diane Walker: "Are you looking for Ron Hess, Beverly Hess?"
Bounty Hunter: "I'm not commenting on that neither."
Diane Walker: "It's a possibility that you'd like to talk with them too?"
Bounty Hunter: "Possibility, yes ma'am."

The bounty hunter asked NBC12 not to use his name and said the bank hired him to keep people out and the property left inside untouched. The end of a business maybe, but a new hurt for many grieving families.

"It was a large stone. It said 'together forever.' That was my plan. I planned on being buried next to her and the stone would already be there," said Watkins.

According to the SCC "Hess-Trigard" had not been in good standing since October 2010. The commonwealth's attorney tells me, no one has been charged but, it's an active case and police are investigating.

Petersburg Police are questioning many of the people who called 12 for help. Unhappy customers have many questions but mainly, they want their money or a marker.

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