Families outraged about cemetery upkeep

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Families are outraged about the upkeep of a Mid-South cemetery that has made headlines before.

Those families said the problems at Galilee Cemetery in Bartlett are so bad that they pulled a weed eater to cut the grass that covered their loved one’s headstone.

Family members were so angry that they placed signs at the cemetery that read, “Black graves matter.”

“It was just a ridiculous scene. To come here and see nothing but grass, we could have stayed at home and looked at grass,” said Tina Burks who has more than 20 family members buried there.

The family showed us a video of what it looked like when they came out to visit this week on the 18th anniversary of Burks' mother’s death.

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"So this time I came prepared with my weed eater and blower. We couldn’t see no names, nothing but grass, Burks said. “We had to do a cleanup. We had to muster through big anthills. The ants had wings on them.”

Burks said the problem was so out of control that she had to wear rain boots and a raincoat even though it wasn’t raining.

“Like my friend said, if I would have known my folks was going to be done like this, she said she could have buried them in the backyard. This is no way to treat a dog. People bury their dogs much better.”

The State of Tennessee took over Galilee Memorial Gardens in 2014 after numerous complaints and ongoing lawsuits for stacking graves and mismanagement that led to criminal charges against the former owner.

Another woman we spoke to said she cannot find her sister’s grave.

“No idea. She just out here somewhere and I wish I knew where she was at, her birthday is Monday, and I can’t even come to put flowers on her grave,” said Lisa Stringfellow, a member of a family who filed a lawsuit.

Spokeswoman Abbey Dennis with The Department of Commerce released this statement.

“The Department of Commerce and Insurance is toward the end of receivership for this cemetery.  Currently, the Special Deputy Receiver is working on the transfer of records to the Memphis Public Library so families or members of the public can research those records. The order issued by Chancellor Lyle lays out the reasoning for the termination of the receivership and expectations of what is to happen moving forward. Please fill out a public records request to receive a copy of the court order. Additionally, this order is also on file with the Register of Deeds of Shelby County per the order of the Court.   Red and Blue LLC is the party responsible for maintenance at Galilee and we are reporting this matter to them. Additionally, the Department is working with them to transition the ongoing maintenance of the cemetery.”