CONYERS -- Rockdale County Coroner George Levett said Wednesday he has taken steps to correct a complaint brought against him by a Conyers woman who said he did not properly prepare or install a headstone on her father's grave.
Jestine Salter has filed a case in Rockdale County Magistrate Court claiming that Levett of Levett & Sons Funeral Home failed to replace, repair or correct a headstone for her father's grave.
Salter, acting on behalf of her mother, filed the claim in Magistrate Court on Oct. 12, 2012, seeking $700 to replace the headstone and $95 in court costs. The case was set to be heard on Jan. 23 but was continued after newly-elected Magistrate Court Judge Phinia Aten recused herself from hearing the case. Levett was elected coroner in November at the same time Aten was elected.
Levett said Wednesday that he has already ordered the corrected headstone and will install it at Salter's father's grave at no charge to the family. Levett said he had not yet informed Salter that he had ordered the headstone, and he maintained that he was not at fault in the mix-up on the headstone.
"She ordered the headstone, she ordered it the way she wanted it," Levett said of Salter's mother, Josephine Clark. He said he even prepared a diagram of the headstone that was approved by Clark.
Salter said Wednesday she would take a wait and see approach on the new headstone.
"At this point his word is not good to me," she said.
In an interview Monday, Salter said her father Bennie Lee Clark died on Feb. 17, 2011. Her mother ordered the double headstone from Levett & Sons at a cost of $700, and it was installed at the cemetery at Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church in Rutledge in June 2011. Shortly after, Salter said it was discovered that her father's name was on the right side of the headstone and her mother's name on the left side. Unfortunately, she said, her father was buried on the left side of the burial plot.
Salter said Levett offered to move her father's vault to the correct side of the burial plot, but the family was unhappy with that solution and wanted the headstone corrected instead.
"We didn't want my father's remains to be disturbed," she said, adding that she didn't understand how that would have been a better solution for Levett. "It would cost more to correct the grave than to remove the headstone," she said.
In his response to Salter's court claim, Levett wrote that Salter's mother was involved in the design process for the headstone and had proofed the design.
"The stone was cut exactly like she wanted," he wrote. " ... the stone was correct from (the) proof. We were not negligent ... we offered to move the vault over. She refused. I offered to have it fixed but the price would exceed (the) original cost."
Salter said she had made multiple attempts to settle the dispute with Levett out of court, but she said Levett had not responded until she took her story to an Atlanta TV news station. Salter said she wanted others to know that Levett had not been willing to work with her family for more than two years until she went public with her complaint.
"If he had been working with the family and trying to settle, we would be settled," she said.