ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) – Cheryl and Arthur Maxwell wanted to be laid to rest together at Royal Palm Cemetery South in St. Petersburg.
Mr. Maxwell passed away in 2003. Shortly after that, Cheryl began making payments on her own spot, right next to his. She paid off the plot in full and kept her paperwork so that her family would fulfill her wishes.
But when she passed away last month, the family was shocked to discover someone else had already been buried in Cheryl’s spot.
“At first, they told us there was no body in the site, and we found it with sand covering it and couldn’t see a grave marker for anyone else,” said Celia Thomas, Cheryl’s sister.
“I think they were stalling.”
Soon, Thomas says they discovered the truth.
Another woman had been buried in the spot beside Arthur. The cemetery put Cheryl in a mausoleum temporarily.
“It’s terrible,” said her mother, Florence Jenkins.
“Her wish was to be buried by her husband. That is where she should be. They should not have sold the site to anyone else.”
The cemetery offered to move Mr. Maxwell to another part of the cemetery and then bury Cheryl beside him, but the family says that is unacceptable.
“I feel badly for the other family,” Thomas said.
“There is no good resolution here, but the only thing to do is move the person who should not have been buried there. My sister should get what she paid for.”
Thomas and Jenkins turned to Better Call Behnken for help.
“I’m not going to let it go,” Thomas said.
“I’m not going to let it go. As long as I have breath in my body, I’m not going to let it go.”
So 8 On Your Side went with the family to Royal Palm Cemetery South. We were first told to wait outside in the heat for the maintenance supervisor who could help us.
That supervisor walked right past us and went inside. We waited for about 50 minutes and watched as pizza was delivered.
Finally, we asked if anyone was coming. We were told that they had changed their minds and no one would be talking to us.
The maintenance supervisor finally emerged and admitted that the staff had mixed up the plot numbers and buried someone else in plot number 56, Cheryl’s spot. The woman was supposed to be buried in lot number 51.
We asked to speak to the owner, Cliff Work, but the office administrator asked us to leave. We went to his Tampa home but were stopped by security at the gated Tampa neighborhood.
Work did not return messages seeking comment for this story.
Florida’s Department of Financial Services regulates cemeteries and a spokeswoman says they’re deeply concerned and they are launching an investigation.