This one mentions the generic marker.
LOS ANGELES B4 SATURDAY,AUGUST17,2002SFLOSANGELESTIMES By GEORGE RAMOS TIMES STAFF WRITER Since the macabre facts at a Santa Fe Springs cemetery came to light more than six years ago, the pain and anger felt by relatives and others, who thought their loved ones were in a safe resting place, has only grown with time. First, there was the outrage when it was discovered that workers at Paradise Memorial Park dug up old graves to resell the plots, sometimes stacking six or seven bodies in a single grave. The pain deepened a few years later when relatives and others learned through the lawsuits and claims filed in the case that there would be little compensation for the illegal activities at the cemetery. The fact that Paradise’s owners were sentenced to jail and ordered to pay restitution didn’t lessen the angst. Now, the final indignity—in the form of compensation checks— has been arriving in the mail for the last two weeks. Joanne Lister, a retiree in Norwalk whose baby grandson was buried at Paradise in 1964, received $136. Her daughter, the infant’s mother, who lives in Oklahoma, received $219.50. Eugene Taylor, a retired nightclub manager whose mother was buried at Paradise in December 1971, received $379. “It hurts,” Taylor said. “I don’t even know where my mother is.” Los Angeles Superior Court Commissioner Bruce E. Mitchell, who handled the case involving more than 7,000 valid claims and about 50 law firms, ordered July 26 that the checks could be sent out from a settlement of a little less than $8 million. The turn of events was particularly galling to some in the African American community because many working-class black families had come to rely on the cemetery. Founded in 1930 on Florence Avenue, Paradise had accepted their business for years at unheard-of rates of about $200. Now, as they receive the checks meant to atone for their pain and suffering, some claimants bitterly say the lawyers involved in the case got the lion’s share of the money. “I think the lawyers are duds,” Lister said. “They didn’t handle the case correctly. I didn’t get enough money for what they did, digging the bodies up.” “They got all that money and that’s all we got?” Taylor said. “It isn’t right for that to happen to a dead person. It’s inhumane.” But Lister and Taylor also know that their compensation could have been worse. “Some folks just got $100,” Taylor said. Many claimants are also upset by cemetery workers’ protests of innocence. They told investigators that they believed they had done nothing wrong—even though it was clear that the whereabouts of many remains were unknown. Some disinterred remains were found in a 7-foot-high, 50-foot- long dirt pile behind a tool shed. “It isn’t right,” Taylor repeatedly said in a recent interview. Some claimants hoped their settlement checks would help them find a new place to bury their loved ones. Lister put that out of her mind quickly when she received the check. “I think I used it to buy groceries,” she said. The unhappiness over the amounts of individual settlements in the Paradise case, which sparked an investigation of similar practices at other cemeteries in Los Angeles, isn’t new to attorney Mike Arias. As one of the lead attorneys for the plaintiffs, he was part of a small army of litigators who handled the cases for their clients. “I guess I’m not surprised by the anger,” Arias said when told of the most recent criticism. “People are never going to be completely happy with this case. “There’s nothing I can do about [the settlement amounts]. I wish I could.” Cemetery and mortuary defendants in the case agreed in 1999 to pay a little less than $8 million to settle legal actions filed against them. Plaintiffs’ attorneys from the law firms involved in the case, including Arias’ practice, received about a third of the settlement. An additional $2 million was aside for the care and maintenance of the Santa Fe Springs cemetery, which hasn’t been allowed to inter more corpses since the scandal came to light. It took the lawyers, the defendants and Mitchell several years to sift through about 15,000 claims in the case, whittling down the num- ber of valid claims to 7,000. Compensation was based on the relationship with the deceased and status of the gravesite. Eventually, it became clear that the payments would be in the hundreds of dollars, not in the thousands. There wasn’t a defendant with deep pockets to pay the kind of compensation many were hoping for. The wealthiest defendants said they weren’t responsible for the abuses. The state was dismissed as a defendant. Paradise’s insurance company said its coverage did not cover criminal acts at the cemetery. The mortuaries that did business with Paradise said they didn’t know about any irregularities there. And the cemetery’s operators said they didn’t have any money. In some cases, Arias pointed out, claims were settled for several thousands of dollars for those who suffered the most egregious abuses. He bristled at suggestions that lawyers were paid exorbitantly at the expense of claimants. “We worked seven years on this case,” he said. “We had to split fees with other law firms. Our work, we figured out, came to something less than $75 an hour. And there was an additional 1,000 [hours of work] that we were not compensated for.” That hasn’t lessened the pain of people who were shocked to learn of the irregularities discovered at Paradise Memorial Park. “I didn’t think we’d get rich or anything,” Lister said. “I thought maybe I’d get $600. This is insulting.” Families Suffer New Grief in Cemetery Scandal Photos by LAWRENCE K. HO / Los Angeles Times Eugene Taylor, with stepfather’s headstone, which is next to several other markers. “It hurts,” says Taylor, who received a settlement check for $379. “I don’t even know where my mother is.” Courts: Loved ones of those who were dug up in Santa Fe Springs call settlement inadequate. A mass burial at Paradise Memorial Park, where bodies were disinterred to resell plots, is marked by a memorial headstone.