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Class Action Filed Against Cemetery Closed by State

March 31, 2000

COMPTON — Two days after state officials shut down Woodlawn Cemetery, a lawyer has filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of people whose relatives may have been improperly buried or illegally disinterred.

State officials shut down the cemetery Tuesday after finding fragments of bone and caskets scattered throughout the grounds. They also found evidence that people who had purchased single grave sites had, instead, been laid to rest in graves unlawfully filled with other caskets.

Sandra Lindsey, lead claimant in the suit, said her mother had purchased a single site some years before her death. But when her mother died a year ago, Lindsey found that cemetery officials had already buried two people in her mother's grave, said her lawyer, Mike Arias.

The lawyer said Lindsey contacted him last month but he held off on filing a lawsuit at the request of officials in the state's Department of Consumer Affairs. State officials--who began looking into the cemetery in February after an inspector on another matter noticed fragments of human bone--did not want a lawsuit to compromise their investigation, Arias said.

Meanwhile, state officials have opened a temporary office in Compton City Hall to meet with families distraught over potential mishandling of loved ones' remains.

"We are meeting with the families one on one, and taking their names and the names of their loved ones," said Tracey Weatherby, spokeswoman for Consumer Affairs, which oversees the state funeral bureau. The office will be open at least through Sunday, she said.

Assemblyman Carl Washington (D-Compton) visited the cemetery and called on the Legislature to study the idea of passing a law to better regulate cemeteries.

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