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June 28, 2014

Memory Gardens ordered closed by state

CULLMAN — The situation at Cullman Memory Gardens has gone from bad, to worse.

With its financial situation in question and maintenance issues piling up, the troubled cemetery property has now seen its main mausoleum shut down indefinitely by the state and bankruptcy court.

The mausoleum is closed until further notice, by order of the State of Alabama and Northern District Bankruptcy Court Trustee. Several signs have been posted outside the mausoleum, and all doors are locked. Furniture from inside the chapel area has also been moved to block the doors from the inside.

A message left for manager Jim Enneper, a Wisconsin-based cemetery owner who gained control of Memory Gardens after receiving a money judgment and filing a writ of execution against former owner DeArbor, LLC, was not returned.

In a previous interview, Enneper told The Times that most of the cemetery-related accounts he had access to were empty. Because of that, he said he was unable to fully honor pre-paid services such as grave openings and closings, but would offer a discount for those who could provide proof of purchase.

A sign with Enneper’s contact information at the facility, which had been posted on the unmanned cemetery office, was removed as of Saturday.

This closure comes in the midst of several documented complaints of a foul-smelling liquid leaking from the vaults, which is currently being investigated.

State Sen. Paul Bussman (R-Cullman) recently enlisted the help of the Alabama Department of Public Health’s (ADPH) to try and determine if the leak is hazardous or related to the bodies interned there.

The cemetery itself is reportedly in non-voluntary Chapter 7/Chapter 11, and the cemetery trustee had previously confirmed the dated mausoleum roof is allowing water into the structure.

DeArbor, LLC. had bought Memory Gardens in 2009 out of receivership from the State of Alabama, after it was taken over following alleged mismanagement from previous owner Mike Graham and Associates. Graham was investigated by regulators in several states, but died before any local charges were filed.

In 2013, DeArbor began facing issues of its own when the company’s certificate of authority to sell pre-need services related to burial and internment was suspended by the Alabama Department of Insurance. Shortly thereafter the company went dark, the corporate phone number was disconnected and the local office was no longer manned on a regular basis.

* Trent Moore can be reached by e-mail at trentm@cullmantimes.com, or by telephone at 734-2131, ext. 134.

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