Lawyer for Bartlett cemetery owner charged with mishandling bodies working to resolve case

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MEMPHIS, Tennessee — The lawyer for a West Tennessee cemetery owner charged with mishandling burials said Friday he is working to resolve the case.

Jemar Lambert, owner of Galilee Memorial Gardens in the Memphis suburb of Bartlett, made a brief appearance in Shelby County Criminal Court on a 2013 theft of property charge accusing him of selling burial plots on adjoining land not owned by the cemetery.

His lawyer, Coleman Garrett, told Judge Lee Coffee the case has several "moving parts." Outside court, Garrett declined to say whether a specific offer is being discussed with prosecutors.

A trial date has not been set.

"We are discussing possible resolutions of these matters," Garrett said.

Lambert was arrested last year in a separate case, in which authorities say the cemetery buried three different people in the same grave. He has not been indicted in that case.

Lambert also has been sued by a class of more than 500 relatives of people buried at the cemetery. The lawsuit contends Galilee stacked multiple caskets in single burial plots, crushed caskets in order to fit more caskets into plots, misplaced remains and buried bodies on neighboring property without authorization.

The suit also names as defendants several funeral homes, saying they should have known the cemetery was conducting improper burials.

The Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance says Lambert kept burying bodies at the cemetery for two years after his registration expired on Dec. 31, 2010. Relatives of three people buried at the cemetery have said they don't know where their loved ones' remains are located because they were not allowed to see the caskets being lowered into the ground.

A receiver has been assigned to oversee the cemetery's operations.

Coffee set a Feb. 27 hearing date for Lambert.

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