Two more families want bodies exhumed at Benton Harbor cemetery

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. - At least two more families want bodies exhumed at the Crystal Springs Cemetery in Benton Harbor.

Tuesday a Crystal Spring Cemetery board member said an internal investigation could reveal years of mismanagement at the city-owned cemetery.

The family of Gwendie Baird met the family of Dorthy Maeaustin at a plot in Crystal Springs Cemetery Tuesday that both families claim to have bought.

 Carla Bean, the daughter of Baird, was told Tuesday by cemetery staff that the actual burial spot was almost 30-feet away. “A year and six months (after her funeral),” she said. “We think she’s here by this (other) concrete slab.”

Bean told the Crystal Springs Cemetery Board at Tuesday’s monthly meeting that she was suspicious of the cemetery when she was told the day of the funeral that the family wasn’t allowed to watch the burial.

Carrie Gray, the daughter of Dorthy Maeaustin, said after her mother’s funeral, three years ago, the headstone was moved to a different location.

Gray said a staff member told them the headstone was moved to the correct location. “By the end of the road,” said Gray’s husband, David. “About 80 yards away.”

The two complaints are two more cases the Crystal Springs Cemetery Board said they’re trying figure out after the 25-year cemetery director Tony Benhart was let go in April after pleading guilty to charges for stealing gasoline.

Already a Michigan State Police investigation is going on for a missing $1,650 from the cemetery.

Cemetery board member Dennis Knowles said there’s proof of at least one other double-selling of a plot. “Mr. Benhart has to answer some questions,” he said.

Benhart didn’t come to his door Thursday when ABC 57 News rang his doorbell.

“If someone was doing their job right this should never happen,” said Bob Hamlett, Director of Crystal Springs prior to Benhart.

Tuesday a cemetery employee dug up name plates on each of the two tombs in question. Both the Baird and Maeaustin family say it’s not enough proof.

“Is she truly here? Have we been given the right information?,” asked Bean. “We’re not sure.”

“How do I know?” asked Gray. “They told us she was in two spots. How do you put a body in two spots?”

Crystal Springs Cemetery will hold a special meeting to discuss both exhumation requests.

According to a spokesperson at the Michigan Municipal Cemetery Association there is no state law prohibiting double-selling of plots.

The cemetery board said they could not comment on the missing money during the police investigation.

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