(Bartlett, TN) The owner of Galilee Memorial Gardens was denied bond Friday.
Jemar Lambert is charged with abuse of a corpse for allegedly burying multiple bodies in the same grave.
Documents show the cemetery appears to have run out of room, so bulldozers were driven over caskets to crush them and fit multiple people into one five-foot-deep grave.
Dozens of people who have family members buried at Galilee Memorial Gardens showed up at his court hearing Friday, hoping the judge would keep Lambert locked up.
Judge Lee Coffee gave his ruling just a few minutes before 5 p.m and said he found what Lambert is accused of is a crime against humanity, unspeakable, and something the city and maybe this country have never seen.
Those who say they have no idea where their loved ones bodies are in Galilee Memorial Gardens handed handwritten letters to the judge.
“It’s just been devastating,” said Mable Moody, whose mother, father, nieces and nephews are buried there. “I just get ill when I think about it.”
“I have to go day by day and ask the Lord to give me the strength to endure this,” said Laverne Buford, whose special needs daughter is buried there. “I thought my child was at peace but after finding this out – no.”
“They are left to wonder if their loved one is one of the ones in a mass grave, or stacked on top of each other or God forbid crushed by the backhoe,” said their civil attorney, Howard Manis.
Lambert took the stand Friday and told the judge he has no income, no savings, and lives with his mother, arguing he is not a flight risk.
His lawyer also submitted 52 letters from people testifying on behalf of his character.
The judge said he read every one of those letters, but just found it disgraceful that while Lambert was out on bond after being charged with burying dozens of people on someone else’s property and, that during that time he was released on his own recognizance, he was charged again with crushing and stacking bodies in grave sites.
“I don’t feel sorry for him. I really don’t for what he’s done to my family,” Paula Shotwell said.
She says Jemar Lambert should stay off the streets for what she calls heartless and cruel crimes committed against her family, so she was glad the judge denied his bond.
Her mother and two sisters are buried in Galilee Memorial Gardens.
“When I first learned that my mom was on top of somebody else, it was like somebody just grabbed their hands in my belly. It was a pain I cannot describe to you,” she said.
She says her mother was laid to rest last year and was sickened by what a backhoe operator told her happened after they said their final goodbyes.
“He said, ‘Your mom has been buried on someone else’s grave,’” she said. “I thought that was so cruel what he had done..I didn’t think anyone could do an animal like that.”
While Shotwell says God will be the ultimate judge, she finds comfort that Judge Coffee is keeping Lambert behind bars for now.
“He should get his punishment,” she said.
Families with loved ones buried at Galilee filed a lawsuit seeking up to $100 million in damages.
The lawsuit, filed in Chancery Court reads, “Every funeral home that did business with Galilee after December 1, 2010, knew or should have known that this cemetery was not a proper and lawful agent for the burial of human remains.”
The lawsuit also states N.J. Ford and Sons and M.J. Edwards and Sons funeral homes played a part in the problems.
Three families have hired the Cochran Firm to represent them in a possible lawsuit against Galilee.
Lambert’s next court date is April 4th.