JEFFERSON COUNTY, Ala. (WIAT) - It’s been nearly a week since George Washington Carver Memorial Gardens filed for bankruptcy and there are still a number of unanswered questions on the minds of some people with a vested interest in the property.
Federal court filings show a list of assets and liabilities for the cemetery which includes a Perpetual Care Trust Fund valued at $810,379.81.
Court filings also list an unknown claim amount for pre-paid or pre-need plot purchasers/owners.
The list of creditors on the bankruptcy filing doesn’t include the names or addresses of people who prepaid for burial plots, but CBS42 is told attorneys are working to track down those records.
CBS42 spoke to one lawyer who says his clients have proof they bought plots, but may still have to prove they're entitled to them. James Stewart is filing proof of claim documents on behalf of some clients who he says prepaid for a burial plot at George Washington Carver Memorial Gardens, but are not listed at creditors.
Attorney James Stewart says the certificates of ownership that some prepaid plot purchasers already have are not the same as property deeds. He says that's an important difference.
"They are not recorded in the courthouse to put the public on notice that you purchased this plot. Most of those records are maintained internally," said Stewart.
As for people who claim they bought grave markers and never received them he says, "There's probably little hope for them ever getting markers."
Now that bankruptcy has been filed in federal court Stewart has some advice for stake holders of the cemetery.
"The main thing is to make sure that you do not miss the deadline to file a claim," said Stewart.
CBS42 also contacted the bankruptcy attorney for the cemetery, Fred Garfield, to ask about the process for compiling prepaid plot owner records, and whether the missing items listed on court documents could have been computers that could have those records.
Garfield issued an email response that contained the following on the topic of records:
"Mike, we hope to gain detailed information from company records regarding prepaid plot owners in the next few days and would intend to amend Chapter 7 filing to add pertinent names and addresses and other relevant information for notice purposes at some point thereafter.
As for "missing" computer(s) the information kept on those is yet to be identified, but may include plot records after May 2007," said Fred Garfield, Bankruptcy Attorney for George Washington Carver Memorial Gardens.
A creditors meeting in the bankruptcy case is set for November 4th in federal court in Birmingham. Stewart says the proof of claims deadline is February 3rd, 2014. Stewart plans to speak at the Town Hall meeting on Tuesday.
Another big question is why the cemetery filed bankruptcy and why it filed when it did.
Attorney Tyler Vail filed a lawsuit against the cemetery before it filed for bankruptcy. Veil says the cemetery filed bankruptcy mere days before a deadline related to that lawsuit.
"We had filed a lawsuit a couple of months ago relating to improper burials and what that case basically was about was these individuals had their mother there and at some point over the last year someone has put someone else in the place where their mother was buried for the last decade," said Vail.
Vail says the family made the discovery on Mother's Day.
"They go every year on Mother's Day. They went out to her gravesite only to determine, to find to their surprise that there was another marker and fresh dirt there at the scene where their mother had been for the last ten years. Yeah they had pictures of them going back you know literally over ten years. You know every Mother's Day, the family which is spread out all over the country, would meet there on Mother's Day and spend time with their mom you know. And unfortunately this last year they went out there and someone else was buried there in that spot," said Vail.
The cemetery's bankruptcy attorney declined to comment on that case or the timing of the bankruptcy.
Representative Juandalynn Givan says the location has been set for the gymnasium of Jackson-Olin High School at 1300 Avenue F., Birmingham, Alabama.
The meeting is scheduled to begin at 6:00 p.m. Tuesday, October 15th, 2013.
Representative Givan says there are no other events scheduled for that evening so there should be plenty of parking.
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