Developer charged with damaging historic cemetery - WSMV News 4

Developer charged with damaging historic cemetery

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CHAPEL HILL, TN (WSMV) -

In the middle of the Warner’s Ridge subdivision, just north of Chapel Hill, sits lot 114. It’s also known as Riggs Cemetery.

A photo shows what were once tombstones on the lot. They’re now gone after the developer asked an employee to clear the site.

“Nothing was disturbed from a standpoint of the graves,” said developer William Barry Brown.

Brown purchased the land for development in 2013. He said he was not on-site when work was done to clear overgrown weeds on the lot.

“I was simply going in to strip the grass of it, sod it, put a fence up and make it a feature instead of an eyesore. Because you couldn't see anything but weeds most of the years," Brown said.

However, as a result, Brown was charged with injury to cemetery property. His bond was set at $5,000.

He maintains the site was surveyed prior to work taking place, and that he's working to restore the cemetery.

“I had ordered some new headstones, because the headstones that were there had no marking," Brown said.

Detective Tony Nichols with the Marshall County Sheriff's Office said family members reached out to the department.

Nichols said damaging a cemetery is a felony, and that includes damage to any tombstones. However, Nichols doesn't believe any graves were disturbed.

“I have recovered some pieces of what we believe is the original tombstones,” he said. “If there was any writing on there, you can't tell it now.”

The cemetery dates back before the founding of Marshall County in 1836. It's unclear how many are buried at Riggs Cemetery.

“A cemetery is a sacred place. It's not supposed to be destroyed or harmed. I understand, the family is upset and disappointed, they simply want it fixed,” Nichols said.

Right now, the Marshall County Sheriff’s Office is treating this as an ongoing investigation.

Brown is required to bring in an archaeologist to figure out where all the graves are, mark them, and then put a fence up around the graves.

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