12 ON YOUR SIDE: Family upset after grave stone of loved one is removed

CHESTERFIELD, VA (WWBT) - A grieving family calls 12 On Your Side after it says a cemetery disrespected the dead and disturbed their loved one's permanent resting place by removing a memorial marker.

The grave stone was 'illegally' installed, according to Dale Memorial Park, on Newby's Bridge Road in Chesterfield.

The family says what the cemetery did was plain wrong.

Michael Kinton got a call from a grounds keeper who he says told him what the cemetery did. We walked to his wife's grave.

"It breaks my heart, because she doesn't deserve stuff like this," said Kinton.

Her grave stone was in the back of his truck.

"They removed my wife's marker and left this hole here and threw the flowers back in there," said Kinton.

Family members purchased the burial plot decades ago, and Michael says he paid Dale Memorial Park to open and close his wife's grave.

"I was charged $1,233 to have this dug out."

But they wanted more, and he believes that was excessive. $4,000 for a memorial marker. $640 to install it, plus an $85 inspection fee.

"Just because somebody is grieving doesn't mean you can take all their money."

Michael found an outside company, which the cemetery said was ok, and bought the marker for $2,700. He says Dale Memorial Park told him an outside installer had to follow its rules and regulations.

Michael decided to do it himself. He says they wouldn't give him the rules.

Chesterfield Police were called after the marker was removed. Michael says it took the cops to get copies of the rules he requested before the grave was disturbed.

"Who wants to come and look at this, a hole in the ground," said Amber Estep, the daughter of the deceased.

I got the family's side late Friday. On my way to the cemetery Monday, I learned the regional manager offered the family free re-installation if they paid the inspection fee.

The corporate office called after about 15 minutes. The corporate office said it would get back to me with a statement. This statement was received around 4:30 p.m. Monday:

"On behalf of Regional Vice President James Aliff, here is our statement:

•  At Dale Memorial Park, our top priority is serving families. We explain to all of our families that, to ensure their safety as well as the safety of our employees, we follow our procedures carefully when placing a memorial at a gravesite.

•  We are dedicated to working with the family to resolve their concerns, and are confident that we can reach a satisfactory outcome.

-- James Aliff, Regional Vice President"

Meantime, regional manager James Aliff told me over the phone that outside vendors must prove they have liability insurance for safety reasons and to protect other graves.

I also learned the memorial marker was put back on the grave today, and a few changes made at the cemetery. I'm working to find out what those changes are, and will tell you about them, Thursday at 6.

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