FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Jackson-Following a joint investigation by the Office of the Attorney General and Secretary of State, four cemeteries placed into Receivership have now been ordered ?sold? by Prentiss County Chancellor John Hatcher.
?We are now taking the final steps towards our goal of placing these cemeteries back into private, credible ownership,? says Secretary Hosemann. ?Our team in the Secretary of State?s and Attorney General?s Offices worked hard to release or satisfy millions of dollars in liens, clear title and accept bids on the cemeteries, allowing Judge Hatcher to order the sale of these properties to the successful high bidders. The hard work and dedication of Attorney General and Secretary of State staff members and community volunteers brought us where we are today. Hopefully, the state is out of the cemetery business in Laurel and North Mississippi.?
?We are pleased with Judge Hatcher?s order,? said Attorney General Jim Hood. ?Today?s ruling gives the victims assurance that the cemeteries where their loved ones are buried will be cared for in the rightful manner.?
The Secretary of State?s Office made the following recommendations to Prentiss County Judge John Hatcher:
? Liberty Memorial Park, Booneville Liberty United Methodist Church
? Pinecrest Memorial Park, Pittsboro Pinecrest of Calhoun County
Bid: $1.00 (A nonprofit Mississippi corporation)
? Prentiss Memorial Gardens, Baldwyn Waters Funeral Home, Baldwyn
Bid: Cash payment of $12,500; victim assistance through discounted products and services; upgrades and capital improvements for sidewalks, landscaping, and cemetery access roads; and establishing a veteran?s section. Waters Funeral Home agrees to be contractually bound to perform the upgrades promised in the bid proposal.
? Sunset Gardens Memorial Park, Laurel Tutor Funeral Home, Magee
Bid: Cash payment of $20,100.
?These churches, non-profits, and companies have made a commitment to the cemeteries in these areas. I am hopeful these sales will finally provide some relief to the families of the deceased,? says Secretary Hosemann.
Of the $32,602.00 in cash pledged on the cemeteries, approximately $15,790 will be paid to the Internal Revenue Service to pay back taxes for liens against the properties. After expenses, the remaining portion will go to the perpetual care trust for that cemetery.
Based upon findings of the investigations conducted by the Secretary of State and the Attorney General, Don Middleton, former owner of the four cemeteries, was convicted on two counts of failure to file cemetery records and has been sentenced to 12 months in jail and fined $1,800 fine.