Grieving family says cemetery buried loved one in wrong spot

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TECUMSEH, OKLA. - Patsy Wehrer says she is devastated over her mom's burial. 

Elsie was laid to rest in the wrong spot at the Tecumseh Cemetery.

“I never would ever dream this,” she said.

A relative noticed the mistake a day before Elsie's funeral but, by then, it was too late.

The deed to Elsie's lot was purchased way back in 1978, but where she ended up is nowhere near her sisters.

Turns out, she's not the only family member buried out of place.

The City of Tecumseh runs the cemetery and admits its workers likely made a series of mistakes dating back decades when Patsy's uncle, Charles, was laid to rest in the wrong spot.

Tecumseh City Manager Jimmy Stokes says the only way he'll move the bodies is if the family comes up with a court order or permit from the state.  

Stokes says his hands are tied because of state law.

Elsie's granddaughter, Shelly, says it feels as if her grieving family is being traumatized again.

“When you're mourning someone and then you can't have closure,” she said. “We haven't been able to order a tombstone.”

We put the family in touch with attorney James Siderias who has agreed to help them pro bono, no cost.  

“It appears, to me, the city knew they had made some mistakes,” he said.

There’s also the cemetery's plot log book, and it appears someone used white out to mark out something on one of the family’s plot documents, an official record.

“I don't know what was there before, and quite frankly it doesn't even properly indicate where people are buried,” Siderias said.

At this point, the city of Tecumseh hasn't made the family an offer.

Siderias says getting a permit and exhuming the bodies won't be cheap or easy.

“We have a disinterment for each of the bodies, [and] then we have to put them back in the ground,” he said. “A funeral director has to be present, [and] the remains are released to that funeral director. All of that is about $2,500 per grave, so the family is now looking at up to $10,000.”

That is money the family doesn't have.

“I know it takes a long time to go through your grief, but I'm just not settled with it at all,” Patsy said. “It bothers me every day, because she's in the wrong place.”

We know the Oklahoma Funeral Board oversees embalming and funeral services, but no one is monitoring cemeteries in our state, so there's no agency for the family to even file a complaint with.

The family and its attorney are weighing all of their options.

We'll keep you posted on things.