Alabama deputies dig up graves amid investigation into reused caskets, illegal cemetery

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PRICHARD, Ala. (WKRG) — Mobile County deputies have begun digging up graves at Heritage Memorial Gardens Wednesday morning.

The sheriff’s office has been investigating since May after they got several reports from people claiming they paid for caskets, but were not sure their loved ones were actually buried in those caskets. Investigators believe Pastor Cedrick McMillan was reusing caskets and running the cemetery illegally.

Deputies are digging the graves of three people buried at the request of their families.

McMillian was arrested and released from jail last month after being arrested for violating SORNA rules. McMillan is a registered sex offender.

New Birth Community Church released a statement on their Facebook page writing in part, “our church has made every effort to submit all information possible to show proof of our legal standing as a church cemetery, and records of the internment’s of the fourteen individuals in the cemetery.”

Later on Wednesday morning, the Mobile County Sheriff’s Office arrested the funeral director, Joseph Bonner-Bey, and charged him with two counts of abuse of a corpse.

The sheriff’s office found caskets that were improperly sealed, with standing water inside the caskets. They also found caskets that were buried under less than two inches of dirt — industry standards require at least two feet.

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