Closure, is it too much to ask? Two Butler County families came to us demanding answers, as they felt robbed in their darkest hours. On September 7th, 2010 16-year-old Bradley Hodge was on his way to
Update: a total of nine families have now come forward claiming they were ripped off by Memorial Gardens Cemetery. Some paid for headstones nearly three years ago.
The death of a loved one is painful enough. Just imagine waiting months, years, even decades for that family member's headstone.
What happened at a cemetery in Butler County continues to leave dozens feeling ripped off, and at wit's end.
Back in 2013 a Poplar Bluff family contacted the Heartland News I-Team because they had been waiting long enough for a headstone for their 16-year-old son who was killed in a car crash.
When Crystal Britt started digging deeper into the situation, she realized there were many more families who had not received what they had paid for at Memorial Gardens Cemetery.
Fast forward to January 2015, and there are still many families who continue to wait.
It's a story the I-Team stayed on top of, and for the first time we're getting some answers from the cemetery operator.
"I got over the mad part," said Darlene Stage. "I got over me wanting you to go to jail, that's not going to help at all."
Just days ago, for the first time, the Stage family met face to face with the man they say has avoided them for years.
"I was very angry with you and I apologize," Stage said to Devon Scott.
Our camera rolled as Darlene Stage confronted Scott about her mother-in-law's headstone.
Anna Stage died more than four years ago.
Her headstone was ordered right after her death in 2010, and it's still not set.
"All you get for months and months and even years is a bunch of lies," said Ron Stage.
At this point, Stage is worn out.
"I've got all I need to worry with, and I didn't want to spend the rest of my life fighting something like this," said Stage.
He is in the final stages of COPD, and doesn't get out much.
Stage did take the time to meet with the I-Team at the cemetery where his wife is buried. It is important enough of an issue to Ron and his family to make the issue once again public.
"We feel like there's not the full closure a family should have," said Darlene Stage.
With her father-in-law in grave condition, Darlene has taken on the fight.
"It's been very frustrating," said Darlene Stage.
In 2013, Ron showed Crystal Britt the receipts for the payments he made for the stone.
He ordered it through the previous owner, Carolyn Yarber.
Yarber then passed away, leaving the cemetery to her son who lives in St. Louis.
With him allegedly wanting nothing to do with the cemetery, the step-son, Devon Scott, took over daily operations.
Scott's signature is on some of Ron Stage's receipts for payments.
The receipts show he paid in full for the stone in the amount of $2,795.
So, what happened to that money?
When we tracked down Scott, he wouldn't comment on camera.
However, he did say that he never realized how bad things really were until his step-mom died.
Now, he said he has basically been robbing Peter to pay Paul.
Court records show more than a dozen victims filed claims against the previous owner's estate.
We dug even deeper and found a claim that dates back to 1993.
In that case the headstone was purchased for $695, but was never ordered.
Devon Scott said he's trying to catch up, and make things right.
He showed us a newly set stone that turned out to be one that was purchased by a Kansas City man that Crystal Britt has been in contact with for two years.
His wife who passed away in 2010, and nearly five years later, now has a marker for her final resting place.
Ron Stage said he went years without a return call from anyone at the cemetery, and finally got his chance to question Scott in person.
"It's going to be here real soon," said Devon Scott in a conversation with Ron Stage.
Crystal Britt asked Stage: "Do you feel like today that you've gotten more answers than you ever had before?"
"Today is the best day since it all started," said Stage.
Scott told the Stage family that the headstone should be delivered to the cemetery in just a matter of days.
"It took me making 100 phone calls and contacting you of course about this to get a resolution done," said Darlene Stage. "I'm happy to know dad will see the one thing he wanted before he passes away."
Crystal Britt asked Ron Stage, "Did he (Devon Scott) say he was sorry?"
"Oh, he apologized over and over again," said Ron Stage. "I don't know if he's lying, but we'll find out in a few days."
There are other victims still waiting for either money from the estate, or the headstone they paid for.
The family that originally reached out to Heartland News about their teen son's headstone told us the headstone is now set. However, they say the $400 picture they paid for to have on the stone is not there.
Those affected by the situation are asked to call the Missouri Attorney General's Consumer Protection Hotline at 1-800-392-8222.
According to the state office of Endowed Care Cemeteries, Memorial Gardens has been operating without a license since August of 2011.
UPDATE: On Thursday, January 29, 2015 the Stage headstone was delivered to Memorial Gardens Cemetery.
Devon Scott said he would be setting the stone on that day.
The Stage family is happy to finally have closure.
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