Clearfield County courts took the first step in the process to install new ownership at the troubled Crown Crest Cemetery.
The cemetery has fallen into disrepair over the past several years after its owners, Edmund Grenier and his wife, Brenda, pleaded guilty to theft charges and were sentenced to jail several years ago for stealing tens of thousands of dollars from the customers of Crown Crest Cemetery and Lakelawn Cemetery in Reynoldsville.
Edmund Grenier is currently serving 25 to 50 years at SCI Bellefonte. Brenda Grenier also pleaded guilty, served 11.5 months in the Clearfield County Jail and was released.
With the cemetery’s status in doubt, Lawrence Township and scores of volunteers have been maintaining the cemetery and the township has set up an account for donations to help defray the cost.
Yesterday at the request of Clearfield County District Attorney William A. Shaw Jr., President Judge Fredric J. Ammerman declared Crown Crest Cemetery abandoned.
Shaw argued that by declaring the cemetery abandoned a receiver could be appointed to run the cemetery until it can be sold. He said this is important because Grenier’s victims have an expectation of service that isn’t being met. Plus, he said the sooner the ownership issue is resolved, the sooner victims can receive restitution
Grenier still owes victims $113,331, according to Shaw.
Grenier, who was transported to Clearfield from state prison to attend the hearing, did not contest Shaw’s motion, according to his attorney Heather Bozovich.
Ammerman said Grenier is no longer maintaining the cemetery and won’t be in the foreseeable future and declared the cemetery abandoned.
“This is not a good situation,” Ammerman said.
Now that the cemetery has been declared abandoned, a receiver can now be appointed by the court to run the cemetery until a permanent owner is located. Ammerman formed a search committee to consist of Shaw, attorney James Naddeo of Clearfield and a person to be named later to recommend a receiver to the court.
Ammerman asked who would pay the receiver for their services. He said many people in the county could disapprove of taxpayer money being used to pay a receiver to maintain a cemetery in Lawrence Township.
Naddeo said the township has received donations and there is some money left over from when the cemetery was being managed by a Jefferson County receiver. He said the township would be willing to turn those funds over to the court to help pay for the receiver, but said he doesn’t know off hand how much money is available.
Several years ago, Judge John Foradora appointed a Brockville attorney as the receiver of both the Lakelawn Cemetery and Crown Crest Cemetery. But once a buyer for Lakelawn was found, the receivership was ended, Ammerman said.
After the hearing, Shaw said under the right circumstances the cemetery possibly could generate enough revenue to pay the receiver. Plus, since the receiver is court-appointed, the receiver wouldn’t have any liability risk for operating the cemetery.
Shaw said this is the first step in the process and there is still a long way to go before the cemetery issue is resolved. But he said he believes under the right circumstances the cemetery could become self-sustaining and possibly could generate enough revenue to pay for the receiver. He said the best case scenario would be for a non-profit organization be formed to take over the operation of the cemetery.