Lawsuit filed over casket unearthed during flooding

By Robert Arnold - Investigative Reporter

HOUSTON - A Richmond man has filed suit against a funeral home he claims improperly buried his wife. During Houston's historic flooding the casket of Carolyn Joyce Lee was found floating down Keegan's Bayou in southwest Houston.

"We know that bodies are not supposed to float out of their graves" said Annie McAdams, who represents Lee's widower, Richard Lee.

Carolyn Lee died eight years ago and was buried at Riceville Cemetery. Heavy flooding in the area forced her casket out of its grave and sent it floating down the bayou. McAdams said Lee's husband, Richard, then got a call from Riceville Mt. Olive Baptist Church, which owns the cemetery.

"You can imagine getting a call like that at work, saying, 'contact the medical examiner, they need to talk to you about your wife,'" said McAdams.

McAdams said Lee went to the expense of purchasing a cement vault for his wife's grave. McAdams said the vault should have prevented flood waters from disturbing the casket.

"He paid for all that. Over $11,000," said McAdams.

McAdams said when Lee tried to get more answers, someone at the church told him not to worry, they could rebury his wife at a discount.

"We have not had any cooperation from the church to date," said McAdams.

McAdams said Lee is suing Robinson funeral home in Silsbee; his wife's hometown.

McAdams said despite the horror of his wife's casket being found floating down the bayou, Lee still wants her reburied at Riceville Cemetery.

"That's their home church, they were married there. They were parishioners for over 30 years," said McAdams. "When Mr. Lee talks about the church, that's his family, that's his home and he wants to be buried next to her."

When Channel 2 tried to contact the funeral home, a person who answered the phone said they were unaware of the lawsuit and declined to answer further questions.

Officials at the church also haven't returned Channel 2's calls.

McAdams said George Lewis Funeral Homes in Houston heard what happened and has volunteered to rebury Lee at no cost.

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