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Caldwell family plans to sue after loved one was buried in wrong grave

Posted at 4:02 PM, Jun 06, 2024

CALDWELL, Idaho — The family of a Caldwell woman who planned the details of her own funeral discovered she was buried in the incorrect spot when they arrived for the funeral. The city didn't have adequate contact information and had to pick a different spot because of a tree root running through the plot.

  • Elaine Reese passed away from terminal cancer in July of 2023 and didn't want her family to be left with funeral logistics in their grief.
  • Elaine had two wishes for her final resting place: to be under a tree and away from a road.
  • We reached out to the city and they told me they didn't contact Elaine's family before the original burial because they didn't have adequate contact information.
  • The family attorney says their tort claim was rejected but the City says it resolved that claim by paying for Kathy's mother to be exhumed and reburied in a more suitable location.

(Below is the transcript from the broadcast story)

"My husband and I come out here, we walk to where she had purchased a grave, there's no disturbed... there's no grave. We look around and see a pile of dirt over by the road and we go, 'Is that mom?' We knew something was wrong," Kathy Blume tells.

Her mother, Elaine Reese, passed away from terminal cancer in July of 2023.

She didn't want her family to be left with funeral logistics in their grief so Elaine chose her own burial plot at Canyon Hill Cemetery and made her own funeral arrangements.

But when they arrived for the funeral service the family learned Elaine was not buried in the correct place

Then a few weeks later...

"In the mail, I get a second deed for a second plot. 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. Turned out the plot we sold your mom was not a usable plot,'" Kathy continues.

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

But proximity to the tree she chose, left the plot unusable with a thick tree root making a burial impossible.

"And I asked 'Well, where is my mom?' 'Well she's over in that dirt by the road, yeah,'" she tells.

Next to a road.

Something Kathy knew her mom did not want.

The whole ordeal, overwhelming, stressful, and emotional for the family, filing a tort claim with the City of Caldwell in December.

The family attorney says their tort claim was rejected but the City says it resolved that claim by paying for Kathy's mother to be exhumed and reburied in a more suitable location.

"What was the exhumation process like for you and your siblings and your husband and your grandkids?" I asked.

"Some of them thought it was funny. But I told them, wait a minute, it sounds like joke, you can't write this but it's really not a joke."

We reached out to the city and they told me they didn't contact Elaine's family before the original burial because they didn't have adequate contact information.

"I called the funeral director back and when I told him that they didn't have any way of reaching me he said, 'I was standing right there with your folder with your information in it,'" Kathy recalls.

Despite the city covering costs for Elaine's exhumation and reburial in a new plot more in line with Elaine's wishes, the family says they still intend to sue.

"When I was here and they were moving her I felt like I had really let her down by not being here the day they physically buried her," Kathy admits.