Family shares ‘heartbreaking’ conditions of loved one’s casket at Emporia cemetery

Local News

A casket in Emporia sat partially dug up and in water for two months, leading family and friends of the deceased to reach out to 8News for help. Leroy Parker (right)

Editor’s NoteWe reported Pearson Funeral Home had the responsibility of moving the caskets down one row and that the process never got finished, leaving the sites uncovered and exposed to the elements. However, in a statement to 8News, Zion Community Cemetery has taken responsibility for the incident. The cemetery says it directed the funeral home where the gravesites should be placed. But, in one of the burials, the cemetery gave incorrect information to the funeral home. Once the mistake was discovered, the cemetery says it attempted to move the vault and casket, but bad weather set in, making it too wet to complete the job. According to Zion Cemetery attendant, Carnell Hines, at no time were the vaults open, nor were the caskets ever exposed to the elements. In this report, we referred to the vault as a casket, when in actuality, the casket is encased in a sealed vault. We apologize to Pearson Funeral Home for the reporting error.

EMPORIA, Va. (WRIC) — A casket in Emporia sat partially dug up and in water for two months, leading family and friends of the deceased to reach out to 8News for help.

Leroy Hick’s dad drowned after his boat collided into an oyster barge last July. The family never imagined, after saying goodbye in such a tragic way, that putting their loved one to rest would be so difficult.

“Ah, I’m getting upset now,” Hicks told 8News on Thursday.

Hicks lost his 51-year-old father, Leroy Parker, in a boating accident in Newport News almost a year ago. Much to his family’s dismay, Parker’s casket has been kept in unthinkable conditions.

“To see his casket still covered in water,” Hicks said. “It’s heartbreaking.”

Two other family members’ caskets that surround Parker’s grave are in the same condition.

“You have my aunt, and my first cousin, which is his niece, all three of them side by side uncovered, it’s a disgrace,” Hicks told 8News.

A manager at Pearson Funeral Homes told 8News off-camera that the cemetery manager asked the funeral home to move the caskets down one row.

The funeral home agreed to take on the responsibility, the manager said. The process to dig up the caskets began but was never finished.

“Broken promises over and over again,” Hicks said.

The funeral home manager said the weather and scheduling differences with a vault company are to blame. Parker’s family doesn’t buy the claim.

“You go to the funeral home, they put it onto the cemetery,” Hicks said. “You go meet with those people, it’s just back and forth. It’s been back and forth for this whole while.”

On Thursday, the three caskets were finally moved to their permanent place.

“I’m glad it’s done and I’m glad he can finally be put to rest,” Hicks said.

8News reached out to the cemetery manager but has yet to receive a response.

Editor’s Note (cont’d): We reported Pearson Funeral Home had the responsibility of moving the caskets down one row and that the process never got finished, leaving the sites uncovered and exposed to the elements. However, in a statement to 8News, Zion Community Cemetery has taken responsibility for the incident. The cemetery says it directed the funeral home where the gravesites should be placed. But, in one of the burials, the cemetery gave incorrect information to the funeral home. Once the mistake was discovered, the cemetery says it attempted to move the vault and casket, but bad weather set in, making it too wet to complete the job. According to Zion Cemetery attendant, Carnell Hines, at no time were the vaults open, nor were the caskets ever exposed to the elements. In this report, we referred to the vault as a casket, when in actuality, the casket is encased in a sealed vault. We apologize to Pearson Funeral Home for the reporting error.

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