5 On Your Side

Mausoleum spaces double booked by Durham cemetery

When Barbara Paschall went to Durham's Woodlawn Cemetery to sell her burial niches, she was told they were already occupied. And by law, the cemetery does not have to refund her money.

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DURHAM, N.C. — 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.”

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.


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