The Mississippi Secretary of State’s office will soon be out of the cemetery business in Laurel and North Mississippi.
Two of the distressed properties went to a church and a non-profit group, respectively, for bids of $1, and the others went to a pair of funeral homes for bids of $12,500 and $20,100, respectively.
The bids were accompanied by commitments to maintain the cemeteries, said Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann.
Hosemann had placed the cemeteries – Liberty Memorial Park, Pinecrest Memorial Gardens, Prentiss Memorial Gardens and Sunset Memorial Gardens – into receivership after a joint investigation with the Attorney General’s office. All four cemeteries placed into receivership have now been ordered “sold” by Prentiss County Chancellor John Hatcher, the Secretary of State’s Office said in a press statement.
Prosecutors won a conviction against Don Middleton, former owner of the four cemeteries, on two counts of failure to file cemetery records. He has been sentenced to 12 months in jail and fined $1,800.
“We are now taking the final steps towards our goal of placing these cemeteries back into private, credible ownership,” Hosemann said. “Our team in the Secretary of State’s and Attorney General’s Offices worked hard to release or satisfy millions of dollars in liens, clear title and accept bids on the cemeteries.”
Attorney General Jim Hood said Judge Hatcher’s order “gives the victims assurance that the cemeteries where their loved ones are buried will be cared for in the rightful manner.”
Here are the properties Hatcher ordered sold to bidders:
* Liberty Memorial Park, Booneville — Liberty United Methodist Church; Bid: $1.
* Pinecrest Memorial Park, Pittsboro — Pinecrest of Calhoun County, a nonprofit Mississippi corporation; Bid: $1.
* Prentiss Memorial Gardens, Baldwyn — Waters Funeral Home, Baldwyn; Bid: Cash payment of $12,500; victim assistance through discounted products and services; upgrades and capital improvements for sidewalks, landscaping, and cemetery access roads; and establishing a veteran’s section. Waters Funeral Home agrees to be contractually bound to perform the upgrades promised in the bid proposal.
* Sunset Gardens Memorial Park, Laurel — Tutor Funeral Home, Magee; Bid: Cash payment of $20,100.
Of the $32,602.00 in cash pledged on the cemeteries, approximately $15,790 will be paid to the Internal Revenue Service to pay back taxes for liens against the properties. After expenses, the remaining portion will go to the perpetual care trust for that cemetery.