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Florida man buried in wrong space at city-owned cemetery

Suzie Schottelkotte, The News-Journal, Daytona Beach, Fla. on

Published in News & Features

According to the city clerk's records, the space where Jerry Paul should have been buried, based on the site identified on his deed, was four spaces south of where he was interred, and the end of a row.

The employee believed to be responsible for the error has retired, according to city records, and the city now sells burial sites only through the city clerk's office, not the cemetery office, to ensure accuracy. The city also is continuing its review of historic records to catalog every previous sale and burial, said City Clerk Jacki Poole.

After learning of the error, the Pauls asked the city in May 2018 to reimburse them $7,745, representing the cemetery costs at Jerry Paul's funeral, to include a new vault and reimbursement for the headstone and casket. They also wanted his remains left where they were. When they received no response, they called the city and were told their letter hadn't been received, Sara Paul said.

The couple sent a second letter to the city five months later, and Parker called with an offer to relocate his remains at the city's expense, including moving the existing casket and vault to an area of the city-owned cemetery where other family members eventually could purchase burial sites nearby.

"The idea of moving him, to them, is very emotional," Parker said. "I understand that, and I really want to do right by these people. There's no getting around the bottom line that this gentleman is buried in Mrs. Tate's space."

Sara Paul said the city's offer failed to recognize the emotional toll the events have taken on her family.

"The city needs to own up to what they've done," she said. "We want to make sure this doesn't happen to anybody else."

The Pauls have hired Lakeland lawyer David Dismuke, who has notified the city that the Pauls may pursue a lawsuit if the dispute can't be resolved. He said any settlement would be predicated on where Jerry Paul is buried.

"If he has to be moved, that will have a bearing on the value of the case," he said.

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The city has turned the matter over to its liability insurance lawyers.

"This has never been about money," Sara Paul said. "This has always been about the city doing the right thing, and about making sure this doesn't happen to another family. Ideally, we want him to remain where he is. It's traumatizing to think about digging him up, after he'd received full military honors at his funeral."

For her husband, the issue extends even beyond principle.

"It's sacrilegious," he said. "The place where he's buried is consecrated ground, and we have to disturb that. That's something the city shouldn't take lightly."

(c)2019 The News-Journal, Daytona Beach, Fla.

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