Unlicensed Funeral Homes Mishandle Corpses
Cemetery Tourist: Crown Hill Cemetery In Indianapolis, Indiana

Who gets to choose whether a body is moved?

On November 1, 2014, a West Michigan family buried their loved one, Shirley Sisco, at Pretty Prairie United Methodist Cemetery in Howe, Indiana. Sisco laid to rest for nearly years surrounded by other deceased members of her family. 

All of this changed when members of Sisco's family were informed that the cemetery had plans to dig a driveway right where Sisco was buried. Apparently, Sisco was buried in the wrong location, and the driveway construction was planned at the time of her burial.

Instead of changing the plans for the driveway, the cemetery plans to change the final resting place of Sisco, contrary to Sisco's family's wishes. The cemetery's plan is to dig trenches on either side of Sisco's vault, dig a new grave at the foot of Sisco's current grave, and pull her vault into the new grave with straps, a thought Terry Bower, Sisco's daughter, struggles with.

Who gets to make that decision?

Because Pretty Prairie Cemetery is a religious cemetery, Pretty Prairie has a lot of leeway in creating rules and regulations. According to Indiana Code 23-14-33-3, the rules and regulations of religious cemeteries trump the general cemetery law. In other words, the governing head or body of a religious cemetery is able to establish rules and regulations for that religious cemetery without regard for any other cemetery laws that govern all other cemeteries.

Under Indiana Code 23-14-33-3, if Pretty Prairie has no rules or regulations regarding the relocation of a body, the general cemetery code applies. Even under the general cemetery code, Pretty Prairie would still be able to move Sisco's body. Though Indiana Code 23-14-57-1 limits the removal of a body from a cemetery without consent of the next-of-kin or a written order, Indiana Code 23-14-57-3 provides that a cemetery is not prohibited from moving a body to "some other suitable plot in the cemetery." Additionally, Pretty Prairie cannot be held liable for burying Sisco in the wrong plot in the first place, according to Indiana Code 34-14-59-1(1).

Unfortunately for Sisco's family, there is probably nothing they can do to stop Pretty Prairie from moving Sisco's body and constructing the driveway right through her old grave.

Sarah Saint

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