The caretaker of a Lexington cemetery is disputing claims that a grave wasn’t ready for a woman’s burial, but the family insisted that the cemetery didn’t do the job it promised.
Relatives of Krystina Gilbert, 33, finished digging an unfinished grave Thursday at Athens-Boones Creek Cemetery because it was only 3 feet deep when they arrived at 1 p.m. for the 2 p.m. service, said Roger Gilbert, Krystina’s husband.
But Jerry Williams, caretaker for the cemetery, said this week that the grave was at least 5 feet deep when the family arrived and was “basically done.”
The plight of Gilbert’s family has been described in stories across the country since Thursday. But Williams disagrees with the family’s version of events and is offering only a partial refund.
The gravedigger worked at the cemetery on Athens Boonesboro Road on short notice, according to Williams. He said he was informed Dec. 5 that Gilbert’s family wanted the funeral two days later. The woman died Dec. 1.
Heidi Lawson, Krystina’s sister, claimed that her family had tried for three days to reach Williams, and they reached him Tuesday.
Digging can’t begin until payment is received, Williams said, and he didn’t receive money until Tuesday night. He told the family that they normally need at least two days to complete the digging.
“(The gravedigger) said he would be pressed, but he would do it,” Williams said. “Evidently he didn’t quite make it on time. He was still there digging when they got there Thursday, and they were upset because he was still digging.”
Williams said he witnessed the digger, who has worked at the cemetery for at least eight years, running into rocks at the grave.
“When we didn’t quite make it in a day and a half, I figured they would have a little more mercy on us,” Williams said. “He did pretty good as far as I’m concerned.”
Lawson said her sister’s husband and family waited two hours for the gravedigger to complete the job, but he didn’t finish.
She claimed that the digger was impaired from drinking on the job and that she saw beer bottles nearby.
Men in the family got shovels and began digging.
“They would not let me do any digging,” Gilbert said. “It was hard enough having to watch them do that.”
“We feel better knowing our family and friends took care of Krystina and took care of the job,” Lawson said.
After the service, the families filled the grave with the dirt they shoveled out, Lawson said.
Williams said that the digger wasn’t drinking on the job and that the beer bottles, which he didn’t see, weren’t from the digger.
“He didn’t have any drinks,” he said. “I’ve cleaned that property up and have cleaned up beer bottles. We can’t stop people from drinking in the cemetery.”
“I can understand why they are upset, and I tried to talk to the guy (Gilbert), but he just didn’t want to talk,” he said. “They got down in the hole and finished digging. They didn’t do anything but clean up the hole, because it was already dug.”
Gilbert’s family will receive a refund for the $600 burial fee, Williams said. They won’t receive a refund for the $1,000 burial site unless they dig up the body, he said.
Krystina Gilbert battled brain cancer off and on for six years before she died, her husband said. “She didn’t deserve that,” he said of the unfinished grave.
She was a strong and charismatic woman and never let the cancer ruin her mood, Lawson said.
“I have three sisters, and she was the best of all of us,” Lawson said. “She was a good person, had a huge heart, and was the one who was always smiling when someone was mad. She said it could always get worse and to be thankful for what you have. During cancer, she never cried, never complained, never whined.”