Grave mixup causes emotional distress for Lake Wales woman

Della Gonzalez claims city officials moved her mother's grave without telling her.

LAKE WALES, Fla. - It’s hard enough to lay a loved one to rest once, but Della Gonzalez is doing it twice.

Gonzalez claims city officials dug up her mother’s grave and moved it to an adjacent plot without telling her.

“I felt the same that I did the day that my mother passed,” she said.

Her mother, Peggy Hall, was buried in the Lake Wales city cemetery in 2010. Gonzalez recently purchased a new headstone to put at her grave, which is when officials realized they made a mistake and buried her at the wrong plot - which someone else already purchased.

“I just hit the ground,” Gonzalez, close to tears, said. “I was so upset over what they did.”

Gonzalez said the city never notified her about moving her mother’s grave.

She found out through the company that made the headstone.

City officials have owned up to the initial burial mistake, but claim they tried to reach Gonzalez several times by telephone before moving the grave.

Legally, counties and municipalities are exempt from a state law that requires written consent from family before a grave can be removed.

Zailet Suri, executive assistant to the city manager, said the city tried to fulfill its moral obligation to notify Gonzalez.

“She was put in the wrong place. I can’t take that back,” Suri said. “All I can say is that I’m sorry. I truly am from the bottom of my heart.”

Gonzalez said she never got an apology. She also wants to prevent this from happening to other families in the future.

Suri said the city now has a better system in place to keep track of plots, so it hopes to avoid burial mix-ups in the future.

© 2017 WTSP-TV


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