Families return to closed cemetery, many questions remain

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BARTLETT, Tenn. -- After being closed for more than a year, a Bartlett cemetery was reopened so loved ones could visit their family and friends on Memorial Day.

Galilee Memorial Gardens was closed after officials discovered the owner, Jamar Lambert, buried bodies on other people's land and actually stacked the graves on top of each other.

Traffic controls were in place to make sure the hundreds of people visiting the cemetery got to see their loved ones Monday afternoon.

However many of the families that attended the visitation left with a lot of questions.

Monday afternoon family members wiped off the dust, placed flowers on graves and came together to share memories.

Everyone has experienced their own loss but the hundreds of people that poured through the gates today shared a common thread.

They haven't been allowed to visit their loved ones final resting place.

"This will be my first time since she got buried so it's very important to me," said 17-year-old Cortez Milan.

Milan was with his grandfather and nephew visiting his mother's grave.

She died of breast cancer two years ago.

"Very hard. I wanted to come on Mothers Day, Christmas, just holidays and not being able to come for her birthday, it's been very hard," he explained.

However, today was different, and Milan said he's happy for others too.

"I feel happy. I'm happy they get to come out here and visit their loved ones graves," he told WREG.

But despite the joy today brought many, some still had questions.

"I'm looking. I got a grandmother out here, a cousin, just looking for my family," said Sherrian Perkins.

For Perkins and her sister Charlotte Tuggle it was an afternoon of searching.

They were looking for their families graves but the last WREG heard they had no luck.

"I've been from one of the trees to the far end of the trees," said Perkins.

The state has now taken over the cemetery and is conducting an investigation.

Kevin Walters, the Communications Director for the Department of Commerce and Insurance, said he knows the families were hurting.

He said there's still a lot his department was looking into before the cemetery could reopen.

"We still have a number of issues with the way this cemetery was being operated by its former owners," said Walters.

Walters said he hoped to have more answers for family members in July.

For now Tuggles and Perkins said they are looking to a higher power.

"I just know their souls in the right place right now," said Tuggles.

Lambert entered an Alford Plea in March.

He didn't see any jail time but was sentenced to 10 years probation.

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