Reaction to tombstone case outcome

HENRICO, VA (WWBT) - More strong reaction to Wednesday's shocking court ruling that dismissed 50 criminal charges against former tombstone dealer, Ronald Hess. Hess was accused of grand larceny and obtaining money by false pretenses.

A Henrico couple reached out to NBC12 by e-mail last night, and they say they're traumatized all over again, that Ron Hess was not convicted. Christy Smith tells an emotional account of how she first met a representative of Hess Trigard at the cemetery, the day of her daughter's funeral.

"We want to move forward but we just had to get to this point," Smith said. "We just wanted to see if he would be found guilty and that would give us some satisfaction that we had done everything we could, to fight for our daughter."

The Smith's infant daughter, Lacey, died last October. It was at the cemetery, Christy says, she was approached by a representative of Hess Trigard, Inc. soliciting business.

"We were approached in the graveyard as we were hearing the crunch of the shovel moving the soil on top of her casket," Smith said. "To me, preying on people in their darkest hour is unbelievable."

She did business with Hess Trigard, she says, thinking it was a different company on Crater Road in Petersburg. When she learned of Ronald Hess and the company's financial troubles, Christy notified her credit card company and fought hard, until she got her money back.

"Whether or not he ever intended to fill the order or place the order, I don't know. I just know, we never got it," Smith said.

Like the group of witnesses who never got to testify in Hess's trial Wednesday, the Smith's want their story told.

"Not only could we not protect my daughter from death, I couldn't protect her in the grave," Smith said.

Ronald Hess was exonerated on all accusations of wrong doing. He left the courthouse without commenting. Perhaps the hardest thing for Smith and the others with an interest in the case, they still don't have an explanation of what happened to their money, and many left empty-handed.

"I pray for your soul because it's an evil thing that you've done to so many people," Smith said about Hess.

Hess's attorney successfully argued it was a civil dispute, not criminal. The charges were dismissed.

The grand larceny and false pretense charges stemmed from 50 complaints totaled $31,000. Petersburg's commonwealth's attorney says her investigation of Hess is continuing.

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