News 4 Investigates: Holding bodies for ransom at Oak Grove Ceme - KMOV.com

News 4 Investigates: Holding bodies for ransom at Oak Grove Cemetery

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By KMOV Web Producer By KMOV Web Producer

ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV.com) -- Things are so bad at Oak Grove Cemetery, families are moving the bodies of loved ones out, which has created an unusual business opportunity for the owner of the cemetery: essentially allowing her to hold bodies for ransom.

As it turns out that looks really bad and after years of highlighting concerns with the cemetery: the state is finally stepping in.

Chris Kreutz and his 88-year-old father Ed are faced with something unimaginable.

“It’s painful emotionally painful … it brings up a thousand memories, it’s not easy” said Kreutz. After losing his wife in 2001, her body was placed inside the massive mausoleum at Oak Grove, but conditions inside the mausoleum and the surrounding cemetery have gotten so bad, the Kreutz family opted to move her body out. 

“It’s like burying someone twice, which it is” said Kreutz.

They are far from alone. Affidavits provided by Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster reveal multiple families are doing the same.

That leads to a troubling pattern: the cemetery’s owner, Marilyn Stanza, is now accused of trying to profit off the deplorable conditions.

“She is using that legal right to hold ransom to these remains to charge outrageous fees,” said Joe Bindbeutel with the Missouri Attorney General’s office.

Some families claim Stanza wanted up to $10,000 per body. One woman paid $18,000 for the removal of three bodies from the mausoleum and another two from the graveyard. 

“People that want to leave should be allowed to leave and not pay a ransom to do it,” said Bindbeutel. 

News 4’s Chris Nagus has been trying to get answer from Stanza for years, but she has not wanted to answer questions about exposed crypts, delayed delivery of headstones, and all around disgusting conditions.

Kreutz was asked to pay $1,800 to move his wife, less than some, but in his mind way too much considering the cemetery offered perpetual care when the crypts were purchased in the 1970s. 

He doesn't feel he should even be in this position, let alone forced to pay for broken promises.

The Attorney General filed a lawsuit and received an injunction. 

“She needs to fulfill her promises she made to people who gave them money she hasn’t been doing that for years and we acted,” said Bindbeutel.

From now on Stanza will only be allowed to charge $2,000 to move bodies from the mausoleum, $3,500 from the ground.  

The Attorney General is encouraging family members to file complaints if they have been asked to pay outrageous fees or if they have experienced the cemetery’s terrible conditions.

Click here to file a complaint

 

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