Compton Cemetery’s License Is Revoked
Regulations: The state cites numerous violations, including the burial of several bodies per grave.
March 01, 2001 | LOUIS SAHAGUN | TIMES STAFF WRITER
State officials Wednesday revoked the license of a Compton cemetery accused of grave desecration and failure to properly dispose of human remains.
The revocation was part of a settlement reached between the Department of Consumer Affairs’ Cemetery and Funeral Bureau and Evergreen Memorial Care Inc., owner of Woodland Cemetery in Compton and Evergreen Cemetery in Los Angeles.
Under the settlement, Woodlawn must be sold or transferred to new owners within 270 days of the revocation of its license, which takes effect March 22, said Tracy Weatherby, a spokeswoman for the bureau.
The owners also must retain a bureau-approved third party to provide for maintenance and public visitation of the 120-year-old cemetery, where no future burials will be permitted, she said.
“Revocation is the most severe discipline the bureau can impose, and it is reserved for the most egregious violations,” said Glen V. Ayers, chief of the Cemetery and Funeral Bureau. “But we are doing more than revoking a license: We are also looking to the future by providing recourse for those who purchased graves at Woodlawn and by finding long-term solutions for the care of the cemetery.”
Attorney Stephan Sadowsky, who is representing Evergreen Memorial Care, said, “It’s a fair settlement. Given the history of Woodlawn, where the current owners inherited these problems from prior owners . . . it serves to protect the innocent consumers who were injured.”
The owners must set aside 200 graves at Evergreen Cemetery and create a $50,000 fund to provide cash payments to customers with rights at Woodlawn they can no longer use, Weatherby said. They also must pay $210,000 in investigation and prosecution costs.
The bureau revoked Evergreen Cemetery’s license, but that revocation was stayed and the license was placed on five years’ probation.
Woodlawn was shut down in March after state investigators found bone fragments scattered about and discovered that cemetery operators had created 16 multiple graves by cutting across the existing graves of 48 bodies. They found that 61 bodies were buried in the 16 new multiple graves.
The bureau charged Evergreen Memorial Care with grave desecration, unlawful interment of more than one body in a single grave without proper authority, failure to properly dispose of human remains, failure to inter cremated remains, failure to keep adequate records of ownership of transfer of plots, and unlawful expenditure of Woodlawn and Evergreen endowment funds.
The settlement applies only to licensing disciplinary proceedings before the bureau and has no effect on civil or criminal actions. At least one civil lawsuit is pending in Los Angeles County Superior Court.