CLEARFIELD – The future of Crown Crest Cemetery is in doubt again.
The former owner, Edmund Grenier is currently in state prison for several cases of deceptive business practices for selling tombstones, markers and other items for the cemetery and never providing them.
Many residents were outraged last spring when it was discovered that there was no one taking care of the cemetery. A group of volunteers cleaned it up and kept the grass mowed and in August it was officially declared abandoned leaving the door open for a receiver to be named to manage it, according to previous articles.
In October, the court appointed Daniel Hile as temporary receiver of the property. On Tuesday, Hile was back in court asking to be released from this responsibility.
Hile’s attorney, Andrew Gates, told President Judge Fredric J. Ammerman that Hile misunderstood the obligations expected of him in this position.
Hile had thought he would only be the caretaker until the property could be sold to a possible non-profit organization to take over the management, he said.
Now that he understands the potential liability and financial responsibility of the position he is “no longer willing to serve in this capacity.”
Gates also explained that he had discovered that the land was not actually owned by Grenier Enterprises but by a separate entity, Crown Crest Cemetery Inc.
James Naddeo, solicitor for Lawrence Township, speculated that Grenier set up the second company to manage the property.
Naddeo stated that the township was not opposed to releasing Hile from the receiver position because he did not operate the cemetery or have any financial control.
Monies raised last year to help care for the upkeep of the property remain under the control of Lawrence Township, he said.
Ammerman reviewed the history of this problem that began after Grenier went to prison.
Jefferson County Judge John Foradora appointed an attorney to oversee Grenier’s other cemetery in Reynoldsville and Crown Crest in 2015, he explained.
This attorney did not do an accounting of funds and when the Reynoldsville cemetery was sold, the attorney was released from his obligations on the Grenier estates, leaving Crown Crest without management.
There was a previous possibility that Hile was going to run the cemetery along with Lawrence Township secretary Barb Shaffner, Ammerman noted.
Naddeo agreed that she expressed interest at one point because she is aware of the situation with the property and the accounts with the money donated by residents. Shaffner is currently re-considering the position, he said.
The Lawrence Township Supervisors want to go back to the original plan and are still hoping a non-profit can be set up to purchase and then run the cemetery, Naddeo said.
He commented that the public’s interest in the cemetery lessened once the property was cleaned up.
Ammerman issued an order releasing Hile from the position after District Attorney Ryan Sayers agreed that the commonwealth is not opposed to doing this.
In response to Ammerman’s question about who exactly owes the restitution in these cases, Sayers said it would be Grenier and any company he operated.
Ammerman then asked Sayers to contact the Jefferson County district attorney to get more information on how they handled this situation in that county.
Sayers suggested that another receiver should be named to handle the property until it can be transferred, but Ammerman did not take any action on that.
Ammerman noted that now that spring is close, the grass will be growing soon and “people will be upset and we are right back where we were last year.”
The downfall of Crown Crest Cemetery began as early as 2012 when Grenier was first charged with deceptive business practices, according to previous reports.
In 2013, he was charged with 18 felony counts of deceptive business practices, 10 felony counts of theft by deception, and multiple misdemeanor theft offenses in regard to incidents in 2006 at his Lakelawn Memorial Park in Reynoldsville, Jefferson County.
Over the years, more charges were filed in both counties for his failure to deliver items promised.
Grenier, who is 74, is currently serving a 25- to 50-year sentence in state prison.