ST. FRANCOIS COUNTY, Mo. ( -- A dead woman's funeral took place nearly six months ago, but her body is still sitting in a local funeral home because a cemetery refuses to bury her.

In March 2019, Pam Cottrell lost her mother, Mary Jaco, at the age of 92.

“I can't believe I'm [talking to the news] to get my mom buried,” Cottrell said.

She said her mother's dying wish was to be buried in the quiet Pendleton Baptist Church cemetery just outside of Farmington in Doe Run, Missouri.

The family already has several loved ones buried there, including a marker for Mary Jaco's son, Alvin Jaco Jr., who died nearly 70 years ago in 1950.

“The baby is buried here over in front of the bench where Dad is buried. The plot in between [is] saved for my mom,” Cottrell said.

The cemetery is overseen by Betty Rudcek and she said, “They did not contact us to make arrangements."

She went on to say she would not allow them to bury Mary Jaco in the cemetery. The dispute leaves Mary Jaco's body in a sealed casket in a storage room at a mortuary in Park Hills, Missouri.

“They have been so gracious, compassionate, and they have truly showed us the love of Christ," Cottrell said. "I'm grateful to them I don't know what we would have done."

The story has a lot of twists and turns.

Rudcek told News 4 that there's too much rock in the ground to dig the grave. But, Rudcek is not allowing the family to hire a grave digger to try and open the ground and check for rock.

The dispute over rock confuses Cottrell and the family because her father was buried there in 2015.

Cottrell said she spoke to the grave digger, “He remembered digging my dad’s [grave], [he] doesn't remember an issue with rock but can't do anything without her permission.”

“I have no record of that man being buried here," Rudcek said.

Rudcek said that's a big issue and she's ready to report mortuaries to the state.

The Cottrells have also called state officials, the Attorney General and the Office of Endowed Care Cemeteries.      

There doesn't seem to be any law outlining an answer to this specific dispute. Because the cemetery was founded in 1825, none of the plots are actually sold or owned by anyone. 

Rudcek claims the fact that it's always been a free cemetery has led to unimaginable problems. She said families are illegally burying people in the cemetery.

It's personal for Rudcek, as much of her family is buried just a few plots over.

Just when you thought the situation couldn't get more bizarre, it does. Moments before Rudzek's interview with News 4, she dropped a bombshell: A 70-year-old death certificate filed in 1950.

The document states Mary Jaco's son Alvin Jaco Jr., is actually buried in the cemetery directly across the street despite his marker being placed in the Pendleton Baptist Church Cemetery.

News 4 contacted the caretaker of the other cemetery in Doe Run. He checked and told News 4 there's no record of Jaco Jr. in that cemetery.

Pam's family has no doubt Alvin's body is in the Pendleton Baptist Church cemetery where his grave marker sits, despite what that death certificate states.

Pam wants her mother placed beside him, something that remains impossible at the moment.

News 4 will update the situation, if any changes occur. 

Copyright 2019 KMOV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved

Recommended for you

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.