Fewer regulations apply to abandoned cemeteries

State law doesn't provide for maintenance for the cemeteries, which can fall into disrepair.

MANATEE COUNTY. Fla. -- “I don’t think they were buried deep enough,” said Doug Covell, Funeral Director of Covell Funeral Home.

Covell is talking about 6 sandy gravesites marked with PVD crosses and plastic wrist bands at Adams and Rogers Cemeteries in Manatee County.

 Covell said he first noticed the smell. “There was an order that attractant to the animals.”

Covell then noticed the graves were dug up and covered with holes. He thinks the holes were done by animals. Covell saw the graves last week while repairing a burial vault.

Covell said he saw something he had never seen before at a cemetery. “I thought it appeared to be a portion of a burial pouch protruding from the ground. (What would be inside?) I assume dead human remains.”  

Funeral Director D. Alan Moore wouldn’t go on camera but told 10 News over the phone these are his grave sites. Moore says he’s buried the indigent and they were placed in fiber board boxes that eventually dissolve. Moore has bought 3 cement lids to place over the graves and has ordered 3 more. But Covell says that won’t offer the bodies much protection. One grave had a food deep whole along the cement lid leading towards the corpse.

Covell says a better job could have been done to bury these bodies regardless if they or their families could afford a burial. “Even if the person as no money county is paying for it still deserves respectful Christian burial,” said Covell.

Covell uses a metal casket for the indigent he buries because when the steel casket closes it locks. “Need to protect the person,” says Covell.

Florida funeral and burial laws do not require one use a casket but there are other containers to choose from including unfinished wood, pressed wood, fiberboard, or card board.

 State law requires a minimum of a foot of top soil above a casket but Covell says most cemeteries require a deeper grave to be dug so does Covell. He said they have the cemetery dig a 6-foot hole allowing 4 feet of dirt between the casket or vault top and the ground.

According to state law, once a cemetery is declared abandoned few state regulations apply. There’s also no state law prohibiting burials at abandoned or neglected cemeteries. There were several grave markers from this year as recently as September.

Click here for more facts on burials:

LAWS ON BURYING HUMAN REMAINS:

http://www.nmfcgs.com/State_Law_Burial_Vaults.html

Burial Laws in Florida:

http://www.nmfcgs.com/State_Law_Burial_Vaults.html

 Manatee County has been voluntarily maintaining the 2 abandoned cemeteries and a third neglected cemetery in Palmetto. Nick Azzara, spokesperson for Manatee County says, “This is a community service the county takes on. It’s not the county’s legal responsibility to maintain the abandoned cemeteries but we have free labor source through the offender worker program.”

The Offender Worker Program stops twice a month to mow, weed and pick up debris

Otherwise, it’s left up to family members to care for a loved one’s gravesite at an abandoned cemetery.

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© 2017 WTSP-TV


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