“Exorbitant” fees removed for families at Oak Grove Cemetery

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ST. LOUIS COUNTY, MO (KTVI) – Now, families can remove loved ones from a cemetery being sued by the state at a reasonable rate.  Last month, the Missouri Attorney General filed a lawsuit against Oak Grove cemetery in north St. Louis County, citing derelict and unsafe conditions.  One major complaint was the exorbitant cost to remove bodies from the cemetery.

For Jim Day, it was bad enough that his loved ones were buried in a cemetery littered with potholes and dead trees, and interred in a mausoleum with mold and spotty electricity.  Last summer, he asked the cemetery’s owner, Marilyn Stanza, what it would cost to move his father to Jefferson Barracks.  The answer shocked him.  He said, “Kind of a hostage situation, as far as I’m concerned. Holding it at $10,000.  I can’t seem to afford to move my dad out of there.”

His testimony, along with others, is now part of the Missouri Attorney General's lawsuit filed against Oak Grove Cemetery.

Affidavits show one family member was told it would cost $10,590 to remove his father and grandmother each.

An actual price list Stanza showed FOX 2 breaks down the fees: Replacing the marble front costs up to $5,500.  Replacing up to three concrete forms costs $180 each.  Opening and closing a crypt costs up to $1,825, which Stanza says is due to the extraordinary labor involved.  Then there’s a $300 cleanup fee and casket tray fee for older burials.  The total cost: roughly $5,115 to $8,285.

The state lawsuit calls this “exorbitant”, “excessive”, and “well beyond any reasonable or standard fees”, and that “these excessive fees prevent families from removing their loved ones from the cemetery.”

That’s why the attorney general’s priority was getting that price lowered.

The injunction allows Oak Grove families to move their loved ones at a cost between $2,000 and $3,500.

Just days after the injunction was filed, Stanza has not yet received any calls from families, wanting to disinter their loved ones at the new, lower rate.

One family member, who wished to remain anonymous until the disinterment is done, says he’s relieved the cost was reduced and plans to move his relatives elsewhere soon.

Jim Day says he’s waiting, hopeful that attorneys can get the fees lowered even further.  A cemetery advisor to the state, Richard Lay, says Stanza's new fees are still on the high-end of average.  Lay says normal disinterment fees range from $600 to $3,500.

Previous Coverage:

Mo Attorney General moves to assist families with loved ones buried at Oak Grove Cemetery