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

(CNN) The family of a Caldwell, Idaho, woman who had planned the details of her own funeral discovered upon arrival that she was buried in the wrong place. The city did not have the necessary contact information and had to choose another location because a tree root ran through the grave.

“My husband and I come here and go to the site where she bought a grave. It's not disturbed… there's no grave. We look around and see a pile of dirt next to the road and we're like, 'Is that Mom?' We knew something was wrong,” Kathy Blume said.

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

Not wanting her family to be left alone in their grief to arrange the funeral, Elaine chose her own burial site at Canyon Hill Cemetery and arranged the funeral herself.

However, when they arrived for the funeral, the family learned that Elaine was not buried in the right place.

Then a few weeks later

“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,'” Kathy said.

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 tree she had chosen, the grave site was unusable as a thick tree root made burial impossible.

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

On a street

Next to a road.

Kathy knew her mother didn't want that.

The whole ordeal was overwhelming, stressful and emotional for the family, until they had to file a claim for damages with the City of Caldwell in December.

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

“How was the exhumation for you, your siblings, your husband and your grandchildren?” I asked.

“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.”

We contacted the city and they told me that they did not contact Elaine's family prior to the original funeral because they did not have the necessary contact information.

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

Although the city is covering the costs of Elaine's exhumation and reburial in a new location that is more in line with Elaine's wishes, the family says it still intends to sue.

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

Anna Harden

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