Funeral Industry News

Fully Exposed Casket Discovered at a Family Cemetery

January 5, 2010

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Fully Exposed Casket Discovered at a Family Cemetery

imageNORTH AUGUSTA,S.C. — There was a disturbing discovery at an old family cemetery in North Augusta on Monday. A passerby finds an open grave with a casket exposed. The cemetery located on McKinney Lane appears to be abandoned. So who owns the cemetery and who can make sure the deceased is laid to rest properly again? Melissa Tune investigated.

The open grave was where a man by the name of Alex McKinney was laid to rest. McKinney was born in 1876 and he died in 1957. There is another grave nearby belonging to his wife, who was buried in 1975. There are approximately 10 burial plots in the wooded area. The last person to be buried in the cemetery dates back to 1998.

You can’t see the open grave from the main road but as you walk closer you will notice the shocking sight.

“I never came this far, but now that I’m here standing here looking at it the casket, it’s a shock,” says Carolyn Jefferson.v

Jefferson lives not even a half a mile away at the end of McKinney Lane. She and her family knew there was a cemetery in the woods nearby – but they didn’t know it was in this condition. Jefferson is not related to any of the deceased buried there.

“This has really gotten me shaking now,” says Jefferson.

Many of the unkempt graves date back to the early 1900’s.

There are headstones split, many of the plots are sunken and then there’s the open grave that appears to have been deliberately opened.

The tombstone of Alex McKinney is dated 1957, but it is unclear just how long his casket has been exposed and in the open air. Jefferson and others say they hope that some family member of the deceased will see this and come forward in order to lay this person back to rest properly.

The question still remains – who owns the property and why has it not been maintained? News 12 dug into the property records that show the land belongs to the Hattie Nellam Estate. Jefferson says she doesn’t know any survivors and the family members of the dead may live out of state. Despite that she says something must be done.

“Seeing this and knowing I have family members that been buried but I’m hoping that God don’t have them like this,” she says.

There are South Carolina laws involving the abandonment of a cemetery. The city or county in some cases can remove the graves to a proper location. In this case, the graves need to be re-secured but the city will have to contact one of the survivors. If no survivors are found, then it’s up to the city to make the decision to fix the graves or not. The city has to post the removal announcement to try to notify survivors. If no survivors come forward it’s usually the city’s responsibility to make sure the graves are re-secured properly.