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Idaho family plans to sue after loved one buried in wrong grave

CALDWELL, Idaho — The family of a Caldwell woman who had planned the details of her own funeral discovered she had been buried in the wrong location when they arrived at the cemetery for the burial. The city said it did not have enough contact information to notify the family of the change.

“My husband and I come here and go to the place where she had bought a grave… there is no grave. We look around and see a pile of dirt by the side of the road and we ask ourselves, 'Is that Mom?' We knew something was wrong,” Kathy Blume said.

Her mother, Elaine Reese, died of terminal cancer in July 2023.

She did not want her family to be left alone in their grief to arrange the funeral, so Reese chose her own burial site at Canyon Hill Cemetery and took care of the burial herself.

When they arrived for the funeral, the family learned that Reese had been buried in the wrong place.

A few weeks later the family received further information.

“I got a second deed in the mail for a second grave. I already had the deed, so I called the cemetery. They said, 'Oh, I'm so glad you called, we didn't know how to reach you. It turns out the grave we sold to your mother was not usable,'” Blume continues.

Elaine had two wishes for her final resting place: she should be under a tree and away from the road.

However, due to its proximity to the selected tree, the grave site was unusable as a thick tree root made burial impossible.

“And I asked, 'So where is my mother?' 'Yes, she's over there in the dirt by the road,'” Blume said.

The property was next to a road and Blume knew her mother didn’t want that.

The family described the entire ordeal as overwhelming, stressful and emotional. In December 2023, the family filed a lawsuit for damages with the City of Caldwell.

The family's attorney says their claim for damages was denied, but the city says it settled that claim by paying for Kathy's mother's exhumation and reburial in a more appropriate location.

The family was asked how the exhumation was carried out for the children and grandchildren of the deceased.

“Some people thought it was funny. But I told them: Wait a minute, that sounds like a joke. You can't write that, but it really isn't a joke.”

A reporter reached out to the city, and the city responded that they did not contact Reese's family prior to the original funeral because they did not have sufficient contact information.

“I called the undertaker back and when I told him they had no way of reaching me, he said, 'I was standing right there with your folder and your information in it,'” Blume recalls.

Although the city is covering the cost of Reese's exhumation and reburial in a new location more in line with their wishes, the family says they still intend to sue.

“When I was here and she was moved, I felt like I had really let her down because I wasn't here the day they were buried,” Blume admits.

Anna Harden

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