LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) – Our Better Call Behnken report about the widow of Neil Kessler, a retired Lakeland police officer, fighting for an undelivered headstone, struck Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd personally.
“I do know Neil Kessler,” Judd said. “He was a fantastic professional police officer for the city of Lakeland. I worked with him back in the day when I was a young deputy. He backed me up many times when there were no deputies available, so it was special to me when I saw your story.”
Judd launched a criminal investigation into where the money went and why the stone wasn’t delivered.
June Kessler paid more than $1,500 to National Memorials in September. At first, delays were blamed on COVID-related material shortages, but for months there has been silence.
Our Better Call Benken investigation found the business empty and owner William Minozzi has not returned any phone calls. That got the sheriff’s attention.
While the criminal investigation runs its course, Investigative Reporter Shannon Behnken continued to search for Mr. Minozzi, to hear his side of the story even attempting to pay him a visit at home, but it was a dead-end at a gate. She also left Minozzi a voicemail, but it was not returned.
Meanwhile, June Kessler says she is done worrying about National Memorials. She’s thrilled she has the attention of Sheriff Judd and believes she’ll soon have a respectful headstone for her husband.
Sheriff Judd says a charity affiliated with the Polk County Sheriff’s Office is willing to donate money for a headstone, if the business owner doesn’t come forward with the money.
But in the meantime, there was another offer. Davis Monument Company also offered a free headstone, as a thank you for Mr. Kessler’s service to the community as a police officer and a veteran.