I-TEAM: Woman had to take cemetery to court to get her mother buried

Woman accuses Beaches Memorial Park of trying to rip her off

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A local woman told the I-TEAM that she has proof that Beaches Memorial Park, a cemetery in Atlantic Beach that was the subject of a News4Jax report Wednesday night, tried to rip her off.

Virmia Sims said she had to go to court and file a injunction to force the cemetery to honor her contract to entomb her mother.

"They have no respect, no decency, no heart, no compassion," Simms said. "I just wanted to have my mother put to rest next to my sister."

Sims was troubled by what she called her despicable treatment by Beaches Memorial Park, but also told the I-TEAM that when she complained to the state agency that regulates cemeteries, investigators did nothing to help.

Sims said she had a Certificate of Interment, proving she owned not just the crypt for her mother, but also four others. She also showed the I-TEAM checks showing she made monthly payments to the cemetery dating back several years, to pay off those crypts.

But Sims said the cemetery still refused to accept her mother's body.

"I believe they had every intention of reselling those crypts because they did not realize I had paperwork showing that it was paid for," Sims said. "For 11 days, my mom was in the room next to my office. She laid in a casket there. We were unable to have a priest bless the crypt or anything. We had to get an emergency injunction from the court to have them permit us to set a date to bury her."

According to court documents, the owners Nader Rayan, who goes by John, and his wife Amanda skipped the court hearing in October of 2015.  Four days later, Sims' mother, Catalina Cruz, was laid to rest.

COURT DOCUMENT: Virmia Sims v. Beaches Memorial Park

But seven months later, the outside of her crypt remains blank.The cemetery still has not added Cruz's name next to her son's mausoleum.

The I-TEAM asked Sims if she had a message for the cemetery's owners, if they were sitting with her at that moment.

"I'd tell them they're despicable human beings," she responded. "I'd tell them they deserve to rot in hell for all the suffering they have caused."

Sims complained to Florida's Division of Funeral, Cemetery and Consumer Services, but was told the state was not taking any legal action.

The I-TEAM checked with the state about Sims' case. A state investigator who looked into the complaint confirmed that Catalina Cruz's crypt had been paid for, just as Sims had said. The investigator also noted that the final certificate was signed by one of the cemetery owners. It also shows that the contract included a payment for a bronze crypt plate with Cruz's name.

But there is no mention of any legal action against Beaches Memorial Park.

"You file a complaint of this magnitude, they're supposed to investigate and take actions to correct the situation," Sims said. "Families are being hurt, being humiliated, being manipulated, and taken advantage of in probably the hardest times in their lives.  They should be held accountable."

The state investigator's letter to Sims reads, "We hope that we have been of service to you." 

Her case was then closed.

The I-TEAM called Beaches Memorial Park for comment, no one returned the call. But the attorney for the owners told us over the phone that his client contends Sims is a disgruntled former employee discharged for serious misconduct. The attorney could not provide any proof of this alleged misconduct in time for this report.

If you have a complaint about Beaches Memorial Park in Atlantic Beach, call the I-TEAM at 904-479-NEWS or send an email to ITEAM@news4jax.com.


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