Local News

Court: Private Property Can't Block Access to Graves

Posted July 17, 2007 7:24 p.m. EDT

— The state Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that people can go onto private property to visit family gravesites.

Rethea Massey sued Douglas Hoffman three years ago when Hoffman prevented her from visiting her grandparents' graves. Hoffman bought the property in 2001 and said he didn't know graves were on his land.

"He didn't want us up there. He didn't want any part of it. He said he'd have anybody arrested," Massey said. "My daddy said on his death bed, 'As long as you think you're right, keep going.' So, I'm going.'"

Wake County Superior Court sided first with Massey, then Hoffman in the dispute. In its ruling, the state Court of Appeals said state law allows people to visit gravesites for restoring, maintaining and visiting, even if they're on private property.

"If you look at the appeal records, there's a lot of studies that have been done to access gravesites, and this just gives credence to the statute and says it's enforceable," said C. Terrell Thomas Jr., Massey's attorney.

The appellate court also ruled that Hoffman filed his motion for dismissal too late.

"It will affect a lot of people, people from the future and people from the past," said Massey, adding that she plans to put a fence around the gravesite.

Hoffman's attorney, Ronald Garber, declined to comment.