Customers still await gravestones, closure
Posted July 2, 2012 5:06 p.m. EDT
Updated July 2, 2012 7:38 p.m. EDT
Fayetteville, N.C. — They are grieving family members desperate for closure. They paid the owner of a Fayetteville monument company thousands of dollars for gravestones they never got.
Last February, company owner Phyllis Hester-Rittenhouse told 5 on Your Side, "I take sole responsibility for what I've done. I take sole responsibility for it, and I just want to correct it."
That was right after 5 on Your Side had heard from frustrated customers who were waiting for headstones to be installed, finished or corrected.
"It's heartbreaking. You know, I've struggled enough this year," said Wanda Miller.
She buried two children killed in a car crash. She paid Hester-Rittenhouse's company, Quality Monuments, $1,400 for a ledger-style headstone.
But Miller points out several problems. The stone faces the wrong direction, and a picture of her children is missing.
Back in February, Hester-Rittenhouse made what seemed like a sincere, heartfelt promise to take care of Miller and all of the other customers who had problems.
"I just know, going forward, that my heart's in it, and I don't ever intend to hurt anyone else, because I know this is a hurtful thing."
But now, five months later, plenty of customers are still hurting.
Also in February, Pam Ratley paid Hester-Rittenhouse $1,550 for two headstones.
She says her mom's is the wrong type of stone, and missing a picture. She says her brother's headstone finally arrived in June, but the dates are bleeding, it's scratched and also missing a picture.
Ratley says on the rare occasions she talked to Hester-Rittenhouse, she offered nothing but excuses!
Susan Gower complained to 5 on Your Side saying she is waiting for Hester-Rittenhouse to simply engrave a headstone for her mother who died last October. She says Phyllis "does not respond to email messages and never answers the phone."
Nettie Ray Cromartie contacted 5 on Your Side about an order placed two years ago. She even won a $400 court judgment against Phyllis and still hasn't seen a refund.
5 on Your Side went back to the business, where the sign out front now says Modern Memorials. Hester-Rittenhouse wasn't there, but talked with 5 on Your Side by phone.
"I understand what you're doing. You're trying to find these bad people that are doing business, but it's not me. That is not me." she told reporter Monica Laliberte.
When Laliberte asked about the new complaints, Hester-Rittenhouse first denied Cromartie was her customer, then eventually admitted, "there's a judgment against me on that one."
When Laliberte pressed her about Miller's stone that she promised to have completed by the week of Feb. 20, Hester-Rittenhouse interrupted saying, "I am trying my best." She then promised to send Miller a full refund the next day. She did not.
When asked whether the issue involved her ability to be a business person, Hester-Rittenhouse insisted that although she was having problems before, "I'm not now. I'm not now. There is not a problem. I get out there every day and make sure it's done and that it's done right."
Customers who complained to 5 on Your Side definitely disagree.
Miller says representatives with the Judge Judy show contacted her about airing her case. She says she is so desperate for a resolution she might accept.
"I shouldn't have to fight for this, but I will. My children are worth that," said Miller, tears streaming down her face. "I think they (Hester-Rittenhouse) should make it right."