CLINTON TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WXYZ) — "The site of a tomb is supposed to be a place of sanctity," said Robert Kachorek, horrified after what he and his siblings say they discovered last year.
They were in the middle of transferring their late mother and father's remains out of one of mausoleum at Resurrection Cemetery in Clinton Township into another when they noticed the casket of their father, who died in 2001, was caved in and crushed.
At the time they say staff told them the casket had simply settled in. Then a phone call came from an employee with information that left them in shock.
They say they were told the coffin was flat because staff had hammered it down with a sledge hammer.
That now former employee, Paul Carra, is named as a whistle-blower and co-plaintiff in the case. He alleges it happened during a maintenance project 17 years earlier to fumigate and remove a bug infestation.
Inside of Angel’s Mausoleum, where the maintenance is alleged to have taken place, thousands are buried. The plaintiffs say it’s unclear how many have been tampered with, but believe it could be as many as 100 human remains.
The allegations are detailed in a recently filed class action lawsuit that alleges the maintenance happened in secret, during overnight hours, with the windows deliberately covered from public view.
The plaintiffs' attorney Tarek Beydoun says exhuming a body from the ground or dis-entombing or dis-interring one from a crypt are crimes, but says his clients were moved to file suit only after cemetery owners refused to come clean to other families impacted.
In response to 7 Action News, the cemetery denied the allegations, saying maintenance is a “necessary and accepted practice for mausoleums in order to maintain places of peace” and that its staff “performed this maintenance with the utmost dignity and reverence.”
But the family says it has a question that needs to be answered.
"I would like to know, where was the sanctity for my father’s remains?" said Kachorek.
Read the full statement from the Mt. Elliott Cemetery Association below:
Today, at the annual gathering of our lot holders, we were served a lawsuit related to maintenance performed at the Mausoleum of the Angels at Resurrection Cemetery more than 17 years ago. In 2002, Mt. Elliott Cemetery Association performed required maintenance on the Mausoleum of the Angels at Resurrection Cemetery. As with all of our facilities and grounds preservation, our staff performed this maintenance with the utmost dignity and reverence. This type of maintenance is necessary and an accepted practice for mausoleums in order to maintain them as places of peace, dignity and safety in perpetuity.
Our maintenance plan was developed with the assistance of an industry expert on mausoleum maintenance and complied with local and international standards and codes of ethics. The expert who assisted in developing our plan was present during the process and noted that maintenance was performed in “a professional and caring manner” with “the dignity that it deserves.” Additionally, a Michigan Department of Consumer and Industry Services review of this maintenance in 2003 found no concerns regarding the actions of the Association or our staff.