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Oh Where is That Tombstone?

The Missouri Attorney General has filed charges against seven monument companies and funeral homes, alleging the businesses took $800,000 from 500 citizens for goods and services never delivered. Just another reason to think twice about paying for your funeral before you’re dead!

From the Kansas City Star, August 19, 2005

Missouri Headstone, Funeral Providers Sued
By PAUL WENSKE, The Kansas City Star

Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon has taken civil and criminal actions against seven merchants who sold cemetery headstones or pre-need funeral plans to consumers.

The charges, filed in circuit courts across the state, allege that about 500 Missourians paid more than $800,000 for services they didn’t get or that were less than promised.

Nixon filed four cases against monument companies, including one in Clay County, for headstones that weren’t delivered.

Nixon filed 10 felony counts of unlawful merchandising practices against Larry Keith Lawhon, who operates LL Monument Co. in Smithville. The charges in Clay County Circuit Court allege Lawhon’s business did not deliver headstones or provide refunds to consumers who paid thousands of dollars.

Neither Lawhon nor an official for his business were available for comment today. Nixon also filed civil charges against Heartland Monument Co. in Springfield and Jeffrey W. Thomure, of Manchester, who operates Standard Monument Co.

Nixon is seeking a civil injunction against Mike Graham and Associates, which operates Memorial Park Cemetery and Garden of Memories in Sikeston, Forest Hill Memorial Gardens in Morley, and Ozark Memorial Cemetery in Rolla. Nixon wants the company to refund $260,000 to more than 100 consumers.

Nixon filed three cases against pre-need funeral-plan companies — a $1.6 billion industry in Missouri.

“Consumers purchase pre-need funeral plans to have the assurance that these arrangements are paid for and taken care of ahead of time,” Nixon said.

He said in many cases payments were not put in required trust accounts, “but instead were diverted for other uses, leaving shortfalls to pay for the funerals when they are needed.”

Nixon criminally charged Jane Spencer Turner, who operates Spencer Funeral Homes in Salem and Bunker, and Donald E. Holt who operates Holt Funeral Home in Vandalia.

He filed a civil lawsuit against Eddie Swarnes of Swarnes Funeral Home in St. Louis.

To reach Paul Wenske, consumer affairs writer, call (816) 234-4454 or send e-mail to .

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