The Skeleton in Bush's Closet that won't go away
Hereinreality | September 15, 2005
Here's a new chapter in an old scandal involving a Bush contributor and longtime family friend, Robert Waltrip. This time it's the desecration of dead bodies, and George W. Bush is directly linked to this scandal (as is former FEMA director Joe Allbaugh, GW's Chief of Staff while governor of Texas). According to Fox News, Waltrip's company, a cemetery company called Service Corporation International (also known as Dignity Memorial) was "recycling" graves, removing the bodies that were there originally and throwing them in the woods to use the space to house new customers at two Jewish cemeteries in Florida.
Bush's connection to the story is that he was subpoenaed in 1999 but refused to testify in a lawsuit by an ousted Texas state employee as to what his involvement was in halting an investigation into SCI's embalming practices, among other things.
This was a big Texas scandal for our president at the time, but as you will learn from this Washington Post article dated August 31, 1999, a Texas judge put everything right for then-governor Bush, just in time to campaign for the Presidency.
Taxpayers of the state of Texas and SCI settled the lawsuit for $210,000 on November 9, 2001, weeks before the gruesome discovery made at two cemeteries in Florida caught the brief attention of the media.
From Fox News December 20, 2001 :
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - Attorneys suing a cemetery company accused of recycling graves showed grisly photos and video footage Thursday of crushed burial vaults and human remains discarded in the woods.
They also presented internal documents they say show Menorah Gardens & Funeral Chapels in West Palm Beach and its owner, Houston-based Service Corporation International, were aware of the grave desecrations. SCI is the world's largest cemetery company.
The attorneys represent 10 families who say their loved ones were dug up and dumped in the woods, buried in the wrong graves or buried in vaults on top of each other instead of side by side as the families had paid
for. More than 1,000 people could become part of the class-action lawsuit, they said.
"That body that is placed to rest for eternity is now destroyed, maligned, abused," said attorney Ervin A. Gonzalez.
SCI officials did not immediately return a call Thursday but said Wednesday that they had no knowledge of any wrongdoing. The state attorney general's office is investigating Menorah Gardens and four other South Florida cemeteries owned by SCI.
A videotape and photos taken by private investigators showed a leg bone beside chunks of a concrete vault, in which coffins are placed. They also show Jewish burial shrouds, and a Star of David next to finger bones.
A former cemetery worker led investigators to the remains, attorneys said.
Remarks in the burial book, obtained from former employees, included "no room for spouse," "move Mrs. Kolin" and "dig this grave double deep." Another handwritten note said: "Where are Lippitis and who are Haskells and are they both deceased? Move Haskell marker."
The pages show "there are several hundred people who have purchased graves, premium contracts purchased years ago, that do not have a place to be laid to rest," said co-counsel Neal Hirschfeld.
Myra Stone of Lake Worth said her parents bought side-by-side graves in 1982. Her father died in 1994, but another man allegedly was buried next to him in her mother's grave.
When her mother died last year, the cemetery's operators dug up the man's vault and threw most of his remains in the woods, according to a former employee.
"I understand that some of his remains are still in her grave," Stone said. "I am just horrified."
The lawsuit, filed Wednesday, seeks unspecified damages.
"We've investigated allegations that we thought too heinous to be accurate, too horrible to be true, over the last several years," Hirschfeld said.
UPDATE: Several of the funeral homes being sued for using the Georgia crematory where hundreds of desecrated corpses have been found were owned by SCI.