Saturday, February 23, 2002

Mortuary allegations are
based on cemetery’s
woes, lawyer says

By Rod Thompson

HILO >> The lawyer representing Memorial Mortuary said accusations against the business are based on legal problems that a local cemetery had in the 1980s and not on any wrongdoing by the mortuary.

Attorney Brenda Carreira revealed an affidavit yesterday supporting a search warrant served on Memorial Mortuary by state investigators Wednesday.

The document says investigators were looking for evidence of theft related to caskets missing from graves at the Mauna Kea Memorial Park cemetery, including the burial of Lily Pa in 1982 and the burial there of Manuel Araujo Rosa Jr. in 1983.

Rosa's relatives said Memorial Mortuary owner Robert Diego sold the family a bronze casket, but when Rosa was disinterred in 1995, he was found "lying on the bare earth without a casket or concrete vault."

Pa's relatives related that she was seen at the funeral in a casket which was to be buried in a concrete vault. When she was disinterred in 1994, she was found in a black plastic body bag.

Diego said the separately owned cemetery, not his mortuary, did the burials.

Carreira displayed 1980s newspaper articles showing cemetery problems began in 1980 when Mark Fellman of Florida first attempted to buy it, then disappeared with about $300,000 of cemetery funds.

Plot holders filed suit against the state in 1984 for inadequate oversight. A warrant was issued for Fellman's arrest in 1986, but he was never found.

The cemetery is now under different management.

The affidavit also alleges that Manuel Agustin was buried in a casket with nickel handles in Honokaa in 2000. A metal detector over the grave failed to show metal, but Agustin was not disinterred.

The affidavit also says a gravestone is missing from the grave of Henry Courtenay, buried in Alae Cemetery in 2000. Carreira displayed a photograph taken yesterday showing the gravestone in place.

The affidavit says Sandra Dubczak bought a pre-need funeral plan from Diego in 2000 when Diego was not licensed to sell it. Carreira said she needs to investigate that further.

Diego said a licensed insurance agent, not himself, now sells pre-need plans.

The affidavit also says Diego's ex-girlfriend Lucille Mossman reported he performed five embalmings in 1994-95. Diego denied it, but said in any case he is a licensed apprentice embalmer.

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