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Descendants of slave lose legal fight over cemetery

4 years 10 months 3 weeks ago Wednesday, April 01 2015 Apr 1, 2015 April 01, 2015 5:50 PM April 01, 2015 in News
Source: WBRZ
By: Chris Nakamoto

PLAQUEMINE- A judge in Iberville Parish ruled against descendants of a slave who claimed ownership of a cemetery that sits adjacent to a chemical plant.

The cemetery is in Plaquemine off of River Road next to the Axiall Plant.

Descendants of Robert Taylor, a former slave, sued when they caught wind that a local church was billing for burials on property it does not own. The chemical plant claims it owns the land, however a deed at the courthouse from 1881, shows the Mount Zion Baptist Association owns the land.

Today's ruling states the plant is only in possession of the cemetery, and actual ownership remains unclear.

"Both sides contend they own the property," Jerry D'Aquilla, the attorney representing Taylor's heirs said. "I welcome that battle. The law is on our side."

The descendants of the slave, set up an association called the Mount Zion Baptist Association in 2009. Today, a Judge did not buy that they were the owners.

A signed judgement reads,"Axiall is in possession of the Revilletown Cemetery. Plaintiff, the Mount Zion Baptist Association Inc. is not the owner, and all claims of Mount Zion Baptist Association Inc. are dismissed."

"That's why I'm confused about the ruling because that ruling basically says, Axiall is in possession of the cemetery," D'Aquilla said. "Which is totally incorrect... How do you possess a cemetery unless you have relatives there?"

Those who filed suit initially got involved when they caught wind that a church was billing people to be buried there. Paperwork obtained by the WBRZ Investigative Unit shows, Shirley Oliver received a $600 check for a recent burial. In February she refused to answer any questions when talked to her.

"I'm not discussing it," Oliver said.

Although no answers were given as to where the money went, the descendants of Taylor say their loved ones can't rest as this loud legal battle plays out. Their attorney pledged to keep fighting despite the Judge's ruling.

"We think he is absolutely incorrect," D'Aquilla said. "We intend to appeal that."

Axiall released the following statement:"Today the district court confirmed its original ruling that Axiall is in possession of the Cemetery and that the corporation created by the plaintiffs in 2009 does not own the Cemetery. That ruling is well founded in Louisiana law and supported by the evidence.

"As we stated in court today, regardless of the ultimate outcome of this litigation, Axiall will continue to respect the sanctity of the Cemetery and will not alter the Cemetery in any way."

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