Family sues cemetery after being told casket will not fit in space they bought

CUYAHOGA FALLS, Ohio -- When Terry Shover, 68, died unexpectedly in September of 2017 his burial arrangements had already been made.

In 1993, Shover and his wife, Janet, purchased a mausoleum space at Northlawn Memorial Gardens in Cuyahoga Falls where the two of them expected to be laid to rest near his parents' final resting place.

"After my grandpa died, mom and dad decided to get a plot next to theirs and so they bought it at that time after my grandpa died," his son, Bill Shover, told WJW.

It was not until after his father's funeral that Bill Shover says his family got a disturbing call from their funeral home.

"We got home and mom was like floored when the funeral home called and said they got a call from the cemetery and that it (his father's casket) didn't fit. It didn't fit where it was supposed to go," said Shover.

His sister, Julie Coffman, took the call.

"We got a call from the funeral home that handled the arrangements for us and the cemetery had called them to say that dad's casket would not fit in the furthest space where he was supposed to go and they wanted to send his body in the casket back to the funeral home to be put in a smaller casket," said Coffman.

"They had asked the funeral home if they could switch him into a different casket, and to our knowledge that wasn't going to be shared with us," said Shover, who credits their funeral home for not agreeing to anything without the family's consent.

"Very disturbed at the fact that my dad is going to be moved from the casket that he's in. From my vantage point, he's in his casket. He shouldn't be bothered; he shouldn't be lifted; he shouldn't be touched. That casket is closed; it should be closed forever at that point," said Shover.

Coffman says the cemetery explained to her that the mausoleum building might have shifted, creating the problem with the space.

In a lawsuit against the cemetery, Shover's family claims:

The burial spaces’ value is substantially less than the purchase price due to the shifting, and Plaintiffs would not have purchased the burial spaces had they known of the deficiencies.

As a result, Shover's family also claims:

(The cemetery) provided only one usable space which only came to their attention upon the death of Mr. Shover.

Since his death, Terry Shover's casket has been in the front space which was expected to be used by his wife after she dies.

His family says the cemetery has offered several options, none of which would be able to meet their father's wishes for his final resting place.

"One of the options was that they were adding onto the mausoleum and mom and dad could have the spot in one of the new spots which, the whole thing was being next to grandma and grandpa," said Shover, explaining that was considered a possibility. "But then we were told they had stopped construction on that portion and that was no longer an option."

Shover says another option offered by the cemetery was for a two-person mausoleum to be built for Terry and his wife outside of the main building.

Janet Shover, however, says it is not what she wants for her final resting place.

"...Which, number one, went against what my dad really wanted because he wanted to be next to his mom and dad. He was very close to them especially close to his mother," said Shover, adding, "if they wanted that that's what they would have purchased and they didn't purchase that."

"My dad wouldn't have wanted something like that. We looked at it, you know, do we do it or not? And mom was to the point where she said, 'that's not me. I don't want to do it like that. I don't want to be buried there,'" said Coffman.

A spokesperson for the cemetery's parent company told WJW that they do not comment on pending litigation.

In the meantime, Shover and his sister worry about other families who expect their loved ones to be laid to rest in the same mausoleum.

They also worry about the toll the problem is taking on their mother who continues to grieve her husband's death without a resolution to his final resting place and without knowing what they will do if she passes before they are able to get one.

"I tell him (Terry Shover) that we are trying ... mom tells him we are trying..." said Coffman.