Family sues cemetery because burial plot wasn’t empty

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A Kanawha County family wants to find out who was buried in a grave the family purchased more than 40 years ago at a Kanawha County cemetery.

Norlena Mae Bess is filing a lawsuit against the owners of Kanawha Valley Memorial Gardens at Glasgow after someone else found in the burial plot that she owned with her husband, Barry Bess who died in March.

Bess family attorney, Ron Walters, Jr., said Tuesday that when the cemetery crew began digging on the plot following Barry Bess’ death they found someone else was buried there.

“When they were digging the grave that somebody else had been buried in Barry’s grave, an unknown person,” Walters said.

Barry and Norlena Bess purchased plots with Barry’s parents William and Nancy Bess in 1977. Barry Bess’ mother and father were buried in 2008 and 2013.

“The corporate owner of the cemetery has provided mixed messages over whether the company knows whose body is in the grave and has failed on at least two occasions to offer a shred of evidence that the identity is known,” Walters said. “The family further is troubled that the cemetery has been reported in the past to have been the scene of illicit drug activity. We believe that, not only is this lawsuit warranted, but so is an investigation by the State Police and the Attorney General’s Office.”

Walters said the cemetery also hasn’t provided the right kind of grave markers for the family that were previously paid for. He said the Bess family deserves better.

“It’s probably the most vulnerable part in your life to bury a loved one,” Walters said. “An interruption of a family plan is just heart-breaking. This is their final and eternal resting place.”

The lawsuit alleges breach of contract, negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress, trespass, fraud, and grave desecration.