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Burial denied at historic slave cemetery

7 months 4 days 16 hours ago November 21, 2016 Nov 21, 2016 Monday, November 21 2016 November 21, 2016 5:35 PM in News
Source: WBRZ

PLAQUEMINE- Tonight descendants of a slave who purchased property for a cemetery for his loved ones are fighting so their relative can rest in peace.

Over the weekend, the burial was blocked by the Iberville Parish Sheriff's Office at a historic slave cemetery which dates back to 1881.

Hazel Jones was supposed to be buried next to her husband, but just as family members were wrapping up her funeral they got some bad news. She was not allowed in to the cemetery where she had a waiting plot.

The dirt moved at the Revilletown Cemtery is still fresh. It's where 73-year old Hazel Jones is supposed to spend forever. Resting in peace won't happen anytime soon. The entire moment captured on video as grave diggers moving dirt for Jones' vault were forced out of the slave cemetery in Plaquemine. You can see the vault on the truck and a front end loader on the back. Janice Dickerson is related to the slave who purchased the cemetery back in 1881. She was out there pleading with deputies to let her relative in.

"I pulled out my paperwork and asked him if he read it," Dickerson said. "He said my major said get out of here, you can't go in there."

Jones was not allowed in next to her husband and other relatives. Tonight, her vault sits in the middle of another cemetery she has no ties to. It's on top of the ground. Where Jones will rest is in limbo.

"This place is just full of corruption and someone has to stop them," Dickerson said. "They will not take this grave over my dead body."

The fight over this cemetery Dickerson says her relative bought dates back for years. Axiall chemical plant claimed it owned the property in recent court proceedings, even though a deed dating back to 1881 says otherwise. Tonight the ownership is unclear after an appeals court ruled against Axiall, saying it is not in possession of the cemetery.

"It should have never have happened," Dickerson said. "In a real place it wouldn't have happened. If this is not a banana republic, I'm not sitting on my mother's grave and I'm not black. This is the cradle of corruption."

Last week, a cease and desist letter issued by the Attorney General went out to Axiall. The order states, "The rights and title to the Revilletown cemetery are currently in litigation and that it is, as yet, unclear whether Axiall has any legal authority to operate the subject cemetery."

"Can you imagine how devastating it was for them?" Dickerson said. "It just makes no sense and Axiall wants to claim ownership, they can't own something that was here since 1881."

Iberville Parish Sheriff Brett Stassi says his office acted on a complaint from Axiall over the weekend.

"Until we get some clear guidance, we're going to air on caution and not let anyone be buried until we get the ruling," Stassi said.

Tonight, Stassi is standing behind his deputies saying they did the right thing by blocking Jones from being buried next to her husband. Even though the courts have said Axiall is not in possession of it. Right now, Stassi said there's too much legal wrangling which is why his deputies took the action that they did.

"This is one of them things where we are waiting for rulings from the courts," Stassi said. "This one is appealed that's appealed...this is overturned...that's a turn. We are looking for some clear guidance whether we should allow them or not."

For Dickerson and Jones' family members, rest is all they want for their loved one. They are prepared to take up the fight for her.

The Attorney General's office made it clear it will not take sides on the ownership issue. However, it says the cease and desist order was issued because right now no one is authorized to operate the cemetery, and their job is to enforce the law. Family members said all legal remedies are being explored right now so Jones can be buried next to her husband.

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