Cemetery accused of burying bodies on neighbor's land
Jemar Lambert, photo courtesy Shelby County Jail.
(WMC-TV) - Jemar Lambert is a cemetery owner at the center of a criminal investigation after he allegedly buried bodies on land that he didn't own.
Lambert is charged with two counts of theft of property.
The Action News 5 Investigators discovered that Voner Matlock was buried in the wrong grave at Galilee Memorial Gardens, a cemetery Lambert owns.
Action News 5 first met Lambert in July 2011 when Voner Matlock's grave site was not immediately marked and her mother couldn't find her on a later visit.
A subsequent exhumation located the body which is not related to his Friday arrest on a theft charge.
Lambert has been involved in an ongoing civil dispute with cemetery neighbors since October 2001 when a surveyor testified in a sworn deposition that he found at least 75 graves on the neighbors' property.
"Because some of the ground is sunken and/or bare dirt, more graves may be on N.I.M's property than appears on the survey plat," the surveyor testified. "The cemetery uses low, flat headstones and does not appear to always place a headstone out at the same time a person is buried."
On October 26, 2004, a chancery court judge ordered Galilee to stop burying people on the neighbor's property.
But according to court records, Lambert admitted to between 20 and 25 recent burials in the "paradise" section of the cemetery on the neighbor's property at a minimum cost of $995 apiece.
"These efforts on behalf of Jemar Lambert who knowingly sold property to decedent's families, not belonging to himself, for the use of burial plots constitutes theft of property," investigators wrote in their report.
But defense attorney Coleman Garrett disagrees.
"I was under the impression that's going to be cleared up in civil court," he said. "So why we're here, I've yet to figure that out myself."
If convicted, Lambert faces between three and fifteen years in prison.