ZACHARY — A meeting about conditions at the privately owned Zachary Community Cemetery devolved into a shouting match on Thursday.
Carolyn Jacobi, CEO and founder of Eternal Justice of Maryland, and Zachary Public Cemetery Maintenance Organization President Bobby Snowden argued about whether payments were made to the cemetery for “rights of interment” or, as Snowden claimed, only for “opening and closing of graves.”
“You remind me of the three husbands I divorced,” Jacobi told Snowden at one point during the discussion at a local hotel.
Jacobi has said the condition of the cemetery at La. 64 and La. 964 came to her attention after a local monument dealer discovered that family members were unable to find the graves of their loved ones.
Jacobi said that since more than $300 was charged for burial, the cemetery should be licensed under state law and it is not.
The cemetery also has to keep records of where people are buried even if no money changes hands, she said.
She added that the cemetery is currently under investigation by the state Attorney General’s Office.
Elevina Scott told the audience that she couldn’t find the grave of her sister in the cemetery. When Scott sought help from cemetery staff, she said, they couldn’t verify where her sister was buried.
Jacobi said that she was called to Louisiana on behalf of Scott.
“They dug up four graves before they found a white casket (indicating that a woman was buried inside. But there was no proof or guarantee that that is her sister,” Jacobi said.
Student and activist Caralyn Tall showed pictures of sunken graves, trash, including a bra and a rusted casket handle, and something she identified as floral foam patching holes in above-ground vaults.
Jesse Spears of the cemetery organization said the group is composed of volunteers. “We don’t get a dime,” he said.
Spears said his parents are buried at the cemetery. “I know where they are buried and they have monuments,” he said. “You can put monuments there if you want to.”
Snowden said the organization was formed in 1987 to clean up the cemetery. Three individuals using funds from local benevolent organizations and churches bought the property in 1926, he said.
Snowden declined to identify the three people, whose names, he said, are still on the title to the cemetery. Before the organization was formed, the cemetery was in bad shape and “we’ve done what we can to make it better,” he said.