East Texas family fights for justice after mother’s grave was moved

“When all this is said and done, I’ll have buried my mother three times.”
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Published: Jan. 10, 2022 at 9:59 PM CST|Updated: Jan. 10, 2022 at 11:13 PM CST
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WHITEHOUSE, Texas (KLTV) - Two people on the board of Blackjack Cemetery in Whitehouse, Ella Louise Brown and Malachi Dews, have been charged with removal of remains on January 5 after the Smith County Sheriff’s Office said Dews and Brown removed a body from a grave without the family’s permission.

Brown and Dews were charged in connection with moving Frances Attaway Wallace from her original burial site to another site within the cemetery.

“She was an amazing woman. There’s not a person in this county, a person in this world that knows my mother, that wouldn’t say the same thing,” Tavion Bell, Frances Attaway Wallace’s son said.

Wallace died on April 26, 2021, and was buried at Blackjack Cemetery in May.

“I got in contact with the secretary Ella, just as I was told to do, and asked ‘Where was her plots to be buried at?’ She told us that it was ‘a free for all, a first come first serve because she was a member,’” daughter-in-law Niki Bell said. “At the point of laying her to rest, we finally start going through the grieving process,” Tavion said.

But now, he said the grieving continues.

Sergeant Larry Christian of Smith County Sheriff’s Office said Dews and Brown called the Bells three months later in August, asking to move the body.

“They ask them if it would be okay to move their mother and they say ‘No absolutely not. You know we want our mother to stay where she was buried by her late husband.’ Without their approval, they exhume the body and moved it,” Christian said.

The Bells were told the cemetery moved their mother in November, while at another funeral for a family member. Nikki said a friend apologized for the incident, and the family had no idea the cemetery went through with moving the body. Niki said she then went to the cemetery to find the grave moved, squished next to others.

“She was not in the wrong spot, she was moved because she got placed in between another person’s family and they didn’t want her there,” Niki said. “That’s what was admitted to the police.”

“There’s no words. I don’t know if the casket is in there. I don’t know if she’s deep enough, if the caskets damaged, if she’s upside down, if they opened the casket and took anything,” Tavion said.

Dews and Brown were arrested January 5, 2022.

“A blessing, because no one that’s capable of anything like this should be in charge of anything,” Tavion said.

Dews and Brown are out of Smith County Jail on bond.

“You don’t disrespect anyone’s grave. You don’t walk on it, and you dang sure don’t go around digging up other people’s family members without them knowing about it,” Tavion said.

KLTV reached out to Ella Louise Brown and Malachi Dews, and neither commented.

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