ACROSS MISSISSIPPI — Four Mississippi cemeteries that were taken over by authorities because of allegations the owner misused customers’ prepaid burial money will be sold at public auctions, according to the Secretary of State’s Office.
Prentiss Memorial Gardens in Baldwyn, Liberty Memorial Park in Booneville, Pinecrest Memorial Park in Calhoun City and Sunset Gardens Memorial Park in Laurel are being sold under an order from Prentiss County Chancery Judge John Hatcher.
“Since we were named receiver of these cemeteries our primary goal has been to place them back into credible, private ownership,” Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann said in a statement. “Judge Hatcher’s order moves us one step closer to that goal and hopefully provides some relief to Mississippi citizens whose loved ones are buried in these cemeteries.”
Hosemann said the state had to clear up a $500,000 lien that former owner Don Middleton had taken out against the properties. He said the lienholder has released that debt at no cost to the state, but an almost $9,000 federal tax lien, plus interest, remains against all the properties.
“The state will receive none of the proceeds from the sale,” he said. “Any amount of the bid in excess of the federal tax lien will go into the perpetual care trust fund. The state’s interest is to get the maximum amount we can and turn that over to the trust fund.”
Specifications for sealed bids have been prepared and should be published in newspapers serving the cemetery locations by the end of the week.
Prospective buyers will have 30 days to inspect the properties and submit sealed bids, which will be opened during a public bid opening.
Each cemetery will be sold as a separate property, but a bidder may submit bids for as many cemeteries as desired.
Middleton was recently convicted in Prentiss County on two counts of failure to file cemetery records — a misdemeanor — and was sentenced to 12 months in jail and a $1,800 fine.