Arrest warrant issued for cemeteries’ owner, secretary of state says

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 14, 2009

From staff and AP reports

JACKSON — An arrest warrant has been issued for the owner of four Mississippi cemeteries, said Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann.

Sought is Don Middleton, who operated the cemeteries with Rogers Memorial Management Co. of Birmingham.

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The cemeteries — Sunset Gardens Memorial in Laurel, Prentiss Memorial Gardens in Baldwyn, Liberty Memorial Park in Boone-ville and Pinecrest Memorial Park in Pittsboro — were seized by the Secretary of State’s Office Tuesday, seven months after a similar action in Vicksburg placed Green Acres Memorial Park under state control by court order.

The accounts of Green Acres in Vicksburg were taken over by the state in January after more than $373,000 was discovered missing from the cemetery’s pre-need trust account. The fund is supposed to hold 85 percent of money that clients pay in advance for vaults and grave markers and time-of-need services such as opening and closing graves. Green Acres’ owner of record is Mike Graham of Texas, who is deceased.

In the Rogers Memorial case, Phillip Wedgeworth of Laurel will assist with receiver’s duties.

In the Vicksburg case, Harry Sharp, who owns an antebellum tour home in Vicksburg, was named trustee of the receivership operating Green Acres. He is overseeing operations at the private cemetery on U.S. 80 just east of Beechwood.

Hosemann is a Vicksburg native.