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Cemetery plots at center of Dade City dispute

DADE CITY — The owner of six grave sites in a city-owned cemetery is threatening to sue the city after discovering two people he doesn't know have been buried in plots he inherited from his grandfather.

William "Buddy" Rogers Jr. of Orlando, through his attorney, informed the city that he either wants the remains of Frank Hatcher and his wife, Bessie, removed, or to be paid for the two plots and two more empty adjacent grave sites he owns in the cemetery, located off Martin Luther King Boulevard.

"This situation is entirely unsatisfactory to my client," Orlando attorney Mark Koteen wrote in a letter to city attorney Karla Owens.

The letter, sent March 1, was something of an ultimatum, threatening a civil action if the demands are not agreed to by April 1. Owens brought the matter to the commission last week.

Rogers' grandfather, L.G. Rogers, died in 1966 and left the six grave sites to his grandson, but the titles to them were not formally transferred until November 2011, according to Koteen's letter. Since L.G. Rogers' death, three people were buried in the plots. Rogers' great-uncle, Jessie Sumner, was buried earlier, in 1952.

Three plots down from Sumner, the husband of L.G. Rogers' sister, the Rev. Bayless Porter, is buried. The Hatchers are buried between the two — Bessie in 1983 and Frank in 1990. The plots on the other side of Porter are empty.

Owens told the commission the city has pored through cemetery records trying to find information on the Hatchers' burial to no avail. The city did, however, speak to the Hatchers' son, Frank, who said permission was given by L.G. Rogers' sister for them to be buried there. In a response to Koteen, Owens wrote that as a result of that information the city "will not either disinter Mr. and Mrs. Hatcher or make payment for the cemetery lots."

Koteen responded that if that is the case, "Rev. Porter's wife greatly overstepped her authority as the sister of L.G. Rogers," and the city should not have allowed the burials without permission from his client.

Buddy Rogers, through Koteen, declined to comment for this article.

During the meeting last week, Owens sought commissioners' advice on how to proceed. Commissioner Scott Black offered to continue to research the issue.

"I just think I need to know more," Black said Tuesday.

Cemetery plots at center of Dade City dispute 03/18/14 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 18, 2014 8:03pm]
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