Owner feels someone was trying to destroy
Arson is cause of fire at Grandview
Cindy DiFazio, Staff Writer
At approximately 12:10 a.m. on Sunday, April 1 the Jefferson County
Sheriffs Office was notified that the business office building
at the Grandview Memorial Gardens Cemetery was on fire. The original
911 call was received by the Madison Police Department.
The New Marion (Ripley County) Fire Department was dispatched
as well as Jefferson County fire departments. The Jefferson County
Sheriffs Office and the Indiana State Fire Marshals
Office were also called to the scene. The Indiana State Fire Marshals
Office has ruled that the fire was intentionally set.
Grandview owner, Keith Mefford, was out of town at the time of
He purchased Grandview in July, 2005 and says it did not take
long to identify huge problems with the property. Mefford discovered
water in a lawn crypt last fall while preparing for a burial and
alleges that the previous owner, Jim Holt, a Madison funeral home
operator, was aware of the problems although he did not install
Last year Ripley Publishing reported two lawsuits pending regarding
Grandview. One, filed by Holt, claimed that Mefford defaulted
on payments. The other, filed by Meffords limited liability
corporation responded that Holt was in default for not correcting
problems that Mefford claims to have brought to his attention.
The problems range from allegations of misappropriated funds to
It is Meffords belief that the fire was set to destroy records
pertinent to investigations being conducted by the Indiana Attorney
General. Monday morning, he said Its sick. But, we
suspected this was a possibility so we started copying files.
He explained that the files kept in rows of file cabinets in the
now torched building are important to the daily operations of
the cemetery, and crucial to any ongoing investigation into the
misappropriation of monies or other wrongdoing. I feel thats
the reason for the fire, Mefford stated.
It appears that the fire started in the front office. The most
damage occurred there. The carpet was reduced to ash, the paint
on the walls was black and bubbled, and broken glass was everywhere.
The fire smell was strong, but a chemical odor was also pervasive.
There was not a lot of harm done to the adjacent room where paper
files are housed. Mefford said that several file drawers were
pulled open, but did not catch fire. It is uncertain at this time
if any files were taken. He noted that he is strongly considering
moving the files to a more secure location now.
Ninety-nine percent of the files are intact, so from that
side were okay, Mefford assured.
Doors that are usually locked were ajar. Mefford believes that
they were locked for the night and later unlocked, but doesnt
know how that happened. He explained that a key count is done
every day, and that his father-in-law verified that the appropriate
employee had locked up on Saturday. Mefford had taken the precaution
of having the locks changed when he took over as owner of the
Cecilia Means, whose grandmother, Tokie Lanham, was disinterred
in March, told the newspaper, I just cant believe
this. Im devastated. Its like the bad news just doesnt
stop! Means was thankful however, that the files werent
A Versailles resident whose family purchased plots at Grandview
said that she was advised to keep records of what she bought and
paid for in a safe place. Mefford agreed saying, Folks purchased
their cemetery packages 20-30 years ago and maybe didnt
hang on to their paperwork. He went on to explain, Thats
one of the reasons these files are so important, so we can show
what they paid for and what they got.
Mefford expressed some frustration with the pace of investigations
into the affairs of the cemetery. There has been failure
clear up to the attorney general, he commented. I
hope and pray someone steps in to help us.
Mefford remains staunch in his feelings regarding Grandview. I
love it more every day, he noted. We know that were
right and theyre wrong. The truth is going to
be told, he added, and were not leaving!
CINDY DI FAZIO PHOTO
The front office at Grandview Memorial Gardens Cemetery
near Madison was completely destroyed in a fire that officials
say was intentionally set.