Former owner talks about Restlawn problems

Reverend owned cemetery for 6 years

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The former owner of Restlawn Cemetery, Rev. Harold Rollinson, spoke with Channel 4 Friday night about the problems at the cemetery.

Rollinson, with Southside Christian Charities, said he is very familiar with some of the problems the cemetery has faced over the years, but he was surprised when Channel 4 informed him that as many as 2,000 graves have to be extricated.

"This is the first that I'm hearing of exhuming of those bodies. That's a major task," said Rollinson.

Rollinson owned Restlawn for six years and told Channel 4 that he was operating it as an unlicensed cemetery, meaning they didn't have to follow state codes and regulations.

"We didn't do anything wrong. The state was out there several times while we were doing that. They never stated to us that we were doing anything wrong," said Rollinson.

Southside Christian Charities relinquished ownership of the cemetery last October as part of a settlement with the owner before him, who he said in turn, sold it to the current owner.

"Were those bodies being put into the roadway at that time?" asked Channel 4's Ashley Harding.

"That's a, I guess, peculiar thing about that. When it was sold to us, that was a recommendation from the former owner," said Rollinson.

Rollinson also said that information was not kept secret from the families.

"The families that were buried in the road knew that is was a former road, and nobody forced anyone to sign any contracts or agree to be buried in the road," said Rollinson.

Rollinson said through it all, his thoughts are with those who say they've been hurt.

"Certainly our hearts goes out to those who are dealing with difficulties because we have relatives out there also, and certainly we don't want them disrupted, and we just pray that God would bless all of those who are involved in this circumstances," said Rollinson.

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