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Lawsuit targets Detroit, church, companies in burial plot mixups at Gethsemane Cemetery

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On Wednesday, a class action lawsuit was filed against the city of Detroit, a church and two local businesses over the recent discovery of mix-ups at the Gethsemane cemetery burials.

The 18-page lawsuit, filed in the Wayne County Circuit Court, charges the city, New Calvary Baptist Church, Southfield-based Necaba Management Group Inc., and Detroit’s Enduring Memories Cemetery Management Company of gross misconduct and business practices as well Failure to provide adequate burial services and maintenance of the land in the cemetery to the east of the city.

According to city documents, New Calvary was entrusted with the maintenance of the Gethsemane Cemetery grounds from 1992 to 2012 by the city’s Department of Recreation. In return, the church outsourced the maintenance services to the Necaba Management Group, which was the cemetery maintenance provider until the contract was terminated last year.

According to the lawsuit, Enduring Memories Cemetery Management took over the maintenance of Gethsemane last year.

The plaintiffs are Tawauna Perkins and Tony Thomas.

Perkins’ brother Owen Gray was buried in Gethsemane after his death in 2018. While visiting her brother’s grave, Perkins discovered, according to the lawsuit, that tombs had “apparently” been destroyed and that many tombstones in the cemetery appeared to have been dug or were “in disorder” behind a building.

Perkins said her brother’s tombstone cracked as if it had been moved or broken.

Thomas claims his mother’s tombstone was moved when he visited the cemetery on three separate occasions. Thomas said he also noticed that where his mother’s grave was, there were boulders and dirt. He later found that his mother’s grave had been moved without notifying him or his family, according to the lawsuit.

Thomas’ mother Mary Ann Thomas died in 2011.

Perkins and Thomas were unavailable Wednesday to comment on the lawsuit.

The lawsuit alleges that funeral parcels were “doubly sold,” but families were told they would buy individual parcels.

“Families are victims of the actions of the defendants and their gross disregard for the final resting place of the relatives of the plaintiffs,” the lawsuit reads.

Joe Sauder of Sauder Schelkopf in Berwyn, Pa., Who co-filed the class action suit with a Troy law firm, said Wednesday, “We look forward to bringing this case to court to relieve the families affected by it egregious accusations and push for the answers they deserve. “

On Monday, investigators from the Detroit Police Department and the local FBI office began a broad investigation into the complaints of confusion about funerals with the exhumation of remains in Gethsemane.

A Detroit woman complained that her brother’s body was missing and although his headstone was there, her brother’s body was missing and the burial site instead contained the bodies and coffins of four other people.

John Roach, a city spokesman, said the city took over the cemetery about 20 years ago. He didn’t want to comment further.

Efforts to reach New Calvary, the Necaba Management Group, and the Enduring Memories Cemetery Management Company for comment were unsuccessful on Wednesday.

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Dusty Kennedy