CLEARFIELD – Crown Crest Cemetery is now officially abandoned.
Former owner, Edmund Grenier, currently an inmate of state prison, appeared in court Wednesday afternoon before President Judge Fredric J. Ammerman to confirm he was in favor of this move.
District Attorney William A. Shaw Jr. stated that in January of 2015, Grenier had been ordered to pay $118,000 in restitution, but $113,331.07 of that is still unpaid.
Shaw noted that Grenier had abandoned the cemetery and its daily operations, leaving the victims not being able to recover the funds they gave Grenier for tombstones, markers and other items.
The downfall of Crown Crest Cemetery began as early as 2012 when Grenier was first charged with deceptive business practices, according to previous reports.
In 2013, he was charged with 18 felony counts of deceptive business practices, 10 felony counts of theft by deception and multiple misdemeanor theft offenses in regard to incidents in 2006 at his Lakelawn Memorial Park in Reynoldsville, Jefferson County.
Over the years, more charges were filed in both counties for his failure to deliver items promised.
In July of 2015, Jefferson County Judge John Foradora ordered all the accounts in his name closed. The cemeteries were then to be sold to pay their debts and an attorney or receiver was put in charge of the businesses.
During Wednesday’s hearing, Shaw asked Ammerman to modify the court order listing Grenier’s restitution to include the fact that the cemetery has been abandoned and asked Ammerman to appoint someone to oversee the business.
Ammerman commented that it was unusual for a DA to ask something like this, adding that 73-year-old Grenier, who is serving a 25- to 50-year state prison sentence from Jefferson County and is now in a wheelchair, as being “in no position to run this cemetery.”
Heather Bozovich, attorney for Grenier, agreed he is unavailable to maintain the cemetery and said he is in agreement in having someone appointed to take it over.
She said he was aware of the public’s concern, the volunteers taking care of it and feels having a receiver would be “a help to the community.”
Ammerman explained that after the Reynoldsville Cemetery was sold last year, Foradora released that receiver “saying you guys are on your own,” regarding Crown Crest.
Ammerman then asked where the money to pay someone to take care of the cemetery would come from, noting that people in other parts of the county would not be happy if their taxes were used for the property.
James Naddeo, solicitor for Lawrence Township, suggested that a county attorney who is already being paid, handle it until someone is appointed.
He noted that Lawrence Township has taken on the responsibility of caring for the cemetery and has received contributions for its maintenance that could be handed over to the receiver, and there are other possible funds being held by the last person to handle the company.
Ammerman then suggested a three-person search committee be set up to find a candidate.
Naddeo said he could assist Shaw and mentioned attorney Peter Smith, who had previously volunteered to try to put an entity in place for the cemetery, could be also be involved.
Ammerman said he would not appoint Smith unless Smith was in agreement.
He then appointed Shaw and Naddeo for the committee with a third person to be named later. They will work on finding someone to manage the daily operations of the cemetery.
Shaw stated that it is important that this person have statutory immunity and have no liability.
After the hearing, Shaw was quick to say that the victims in these cases should not have unreal expectations that if the cemetery is back in business, they would “get a check in the mail.”
The best-case scenario is that a group can form a non-profit organization and assume the responsibility for the business by purchasing the property at the county tax sale.
“It is a very, very, very, difficult situation,” Shaw said, but there is a possibility that the cemetery could potentially pay for itself because there are close to 2,000 plots still available there.
But there is no expectation that the business could recover enough to pay back the victims, although Shaw did mention a slight possibility that some of the items sold by Grenier could be in storage, waiting to be engraved.
If anyone is interested in being on the committee or becoming the receiver for Crown Crest Cemetery, they are encouraged to contact Shaw or Naddeo.