Ex-Detroit cemetery manager says 5 times she corrected burial plot mistakes by previous company

A class-action lawsuit is filled with disturbing allegations citing years of mismanagement at Gethsemane cemetery on Gratiot near conner on Detroit's east side. The city owns the cemetery but uses a contractor to run it.

For three days and counting, investigators are working to see if bodies are buried in the right place. Now one former manager is sharing her story for the first time.

"That's what hurts me so bad, that I have nothing to do with the lawsuit," said Silvia Thomas.

Thomas says she has her own questions like why she is named a defendant in a class-action lawsuit filed Wednesday in Wayne County Circuit Court.

"You know I wish someone could answer that for me and tell me," she said. "I don't know if it's ignorance or what."

Thomas says she ran the cemetery from May 2020 to May 2021 and claims the work she did was by the book.

She says the accusations of mismanagement stem from companies who ran the cemetery before her - which she first discovered during her first burial.

"Someone was already in the grave and it wasn't for the person I was trying to bury," Thomas said. "So what I had to do was, I had to pray real hard and ask the Lord to give me some wisdom and knowledge how to tell the family what I could do for that."

Thomas says she paid to have the body put into a crypt instead and she did that five times. She claims she also had problems finding people's loved ones.

While she says she feels for the families affected by this week's investigation, she denies any culpability for the current situation.

Silvia Thomas

Silvia Thomas

"(I) am not responsible for any of their emotions because I'm not the responsible party," she said.

"When people join together, the class action is a mechanism of the court system that allows people to be heard as a group that's what we're after," said attorney Linda Roelans.

Roelans is an attorney for Rossman PC, the law firm that filed the lawsuit against the city and the companies who at one point, were in charge of managing the cemetery.

She says so far five families have come forward alleging mismanagement. She says similar cases have happened around the country.

"Records are not kept and sometimes people are sold cemetery plots that have already been filled with bodies buried on top of other bodies, bodies are buried in pathways," said Roelands.

Meanwhile, the heartache continues for people like Tauwana Perkins- whose brother is buried near where 20 bodies are being exhumed to see if they are resting in the right place.

"It's sad, I'm emotional about it," she said. "I have generations of family members across the street and I think they are disrespectful to the deceased to the families of the loved ones. I believe it's just greed."

FOX 2 reached out to the city of Detroit and the other companies named in the lawsuit. So far no one besides Thomas has commented.