5 On Your Side

Mausoleum spaces double booked by Durham cemetery

Posted March 17, 2011

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— Death is not something most of us care to think about. Yet plenty of people do take the time to plan ahead by reserving and buying cemetery burial spaces.

Back in the 1990s, Rudy Paschall picked out and purchased two specific burial niches inside a mausoleum at Woodlawn Cemetery in Durham. In 2006, he transferred those spaces to his ex-wife, Barbara. Soon after, he died and was buried in Florida.

So last month, Barbara Paschall went to Woodlawn to find out how to sell the spots.

“I knew I was not going to use them, and I knew he had already been buried in Florida,” she said. “I was not going to need them for him, so what other options do I have for them?”

Paschall says she did not expect the answer she got from the cemetery representative.

“She said, 'Oh well, we've already got two different people in those now,'” said Paschall. “And I'm like, 'What do you mean you've already got two different people in those now?'”

Paschall says the rep told her, "We made a mistake.” Paschall added, “She did not go into detail. I could not get her to further explain anything.”

Woman finds masoleum niche already filled Woman finds mausoleum niche already filled

Paschall says she asked for a refund, but was told they couldn't do that. Paschall says they told her they would instead move the remains of one of the people to another niche, and find her a second one. “You don't move a dead person's remains,” said Paschall.

The next day she spoke with a Woodlawn supervisor. “The gentleman I spoke with was very rude to me and acted like it was my fault that the mistake had happened,” said Paschal. “And I was really insulting him by taking his time to deal with this issue.”

Paschal says he was supposed to call her back, but didn't. She says after multiple messages were never returned, she called 5 On Your Side.

5 On Your Side called Woodlawn owner Linuel Primus, who told us Paschall's problem is "on the list to be resolved."

He said he thought someone contacted Paschall, but that the ball got dropped. Primus added that he just bought the cemetery in January and said the records are in disarray. He also said he would do what he can to make it right.

The cemetery has contacted Paschall, but so far they have not reached a resolution.

Based on the law, Paschall may not get the refund she wants. Nancy Wagner, interim administrator for the North Carolina Cemetery Commission, told 5 On Your Side that in these types of situations, the cemetery is only required to give the customer replacement spaces. Operators do not have to refund money.

But in order to give Paschall the specific spaces she originally owned, Woodlawn would have to first get permission from the other families to move the remains. The company would then have to get an OK from the county.

Paschall is miffed about the whole thing. "It's just ridiculous,” she said. “I think it's wrong to do anybody this way."

As for selling the spaces, Paschall can do that in many ways. Online classifieds are popular. Craigslist has dozens of ads for cemetery plots and mausoleum niches.

14 Comments

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  • clarkk225 Mar 22, 11:10 a.m.

    Here's one better. A friend of mines mom died, they buried her. Six weeks later her dad died. They went to bury him next to her mom (in his prepurchsed plot) and guess what? Someone else was buried there. So, they dug her mom up, made the whole deeper and placed her dad on top. Guess where this happened? Yep, Woodlawn. She got a Lawyer and they had to pay big time and refund all fees paid! Still doesn't change the trauma the family went through, but they proved you can't do this to people.

  • amynmurray Mar 22, 10:21 a.m.

    The problem with finding an alternate "space" at Woodlawn is, that there aren't many. Woodlawn is mostly full and these spaces are likely to be separate.

  • we_all_have_it_coming Mar 18, 1:00 p.m.

    "I dont understand the problem. Does it really matter which spot is hers. If he gives her two unused together. My wife and I have two plots and we have already had the marker put down with our names etc. The cemetary is not likely to make a mistake and bury someone else there."

    Uh... isn't that what this article is about?

    When you are in need of your two plots... they may have already buried someone else there are you are out of luck. No refund... but they will be nice and find you a couple more... somewhere.

  • superman Mar 18, 10:54 a.m.

    I dont understand the problem. Does it really matter which spot is hers. If he gives her two unused together. My wife and I have two plots and we have already had the marker put down with our names etc. The cemetary is not likely to make a mistake and bury someone else there.

  • Moth Ball Mar 17, 7:58 p.m.

    Think after reading this I'll go check and see if anyone is buried already in my plots. If it's me, then I won't be upset.

  • right2life Mar 17, 7:51 p.m.

    When this woman goes to sell the 2 spaces (whatever ones they give her), she will likely get a better return if the spaces are beside each other. The new cemetery owner could have paid her cash to resolve the matter. When you buy a business, you assume all liability. If you can't afford to handle something like this, you can't afford to own this business.

  • DAG Mar 17, 7:49 p.m.

    It must not be that bad a place, people are just dying to get in there! Okay, I'm just surprised someone else hadn't already said it.

    But seriously, these folks don't sound very nice, and given what they're selling, it seems like they should have the best customer service in the world...

  • lennymoc2 Mar 17, 7:40 p.m.

    Sadly, THIS IS NOT THE FIRST TIME this has happened. I know, it happened to my grandparents. My father passed away and my grandparents pre-bought their 2 spaces beside my parents'. My mom goes to place flowers on dad's grave and there is a lady buried in one of their spots. When they purchased them, the cemetary offered no interest for so many months. When we confronted them, we were told that because this other family had the cash right then, it superceded the contract in NC. Needless to say the poor lady was moved, God rest her soul, and my grandparents took the rest of the money there and had a name plate put on the wall.

  • IBleedRedandWhite Mar 17, 7:37 p.m.

    There have been stories where these mausoleum spaces are paid for, your body interred for about a year, then removed and the space put back up for sale.
    It is ridiculous that she will probably just end up with a replacement plot.

  • LovemyPirates Mar 17, 7:21 p.m.

    Wow - this is about the most poor customer service ever. Everyone should avoid this place and tell everyone they know to avoid it. The new owner should have immediately refunded the money then he would get "good" press rather then this.

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