“Unfortunately, this case involves an all-too-familiar feud between opposite sides of the family of a decedent, in which the feud is foremost and the wishes of the decedent take a back seat.”
— Hancock County Probate Judge Kristen Johnson, in the matter of the estate of William R. Eisaman Jr.
By J. STEVEN DILLON
A Hancock County judge has ordered the remains of William R. Eisaman Jr. to stay in Bechtel Cemetery, near Van Buren, and not be returned to Arcadia Cemetery, where he was originally buried after the Findlay man died last December.
Judge Kristen Johnson, in a ruling in a highly unusual Hancock County Probate Court case, denied Linda Badgett’s request to have her brother’s remains exhumed and taken back to the family plot in Arcadia.
In turning down Badgett’s request, Johnson acknowledged public policy that a person’s remains should not be exhumed except for the most compelling reasons, and the clear preference of the law that favors a surviving spouse.
Eisaman’s spouse, Charlene, had her husband’s remains exhumed from Arcadia Cemetery after learning in July that she would not be able to be buried beside her husband, as was his wish.
Badgett filed a motion to return her brother’s remains to Arcadia in late August, and a court hearing was held early this month.
Charlene Eisaman testified that she arranged for Coldren-Crates Funeral Home and the cemetery to exhume the remains after Badgett told Eisaman’s attorney, Christie Ranzau, in a letter that a deed restriction on the Eisaman burial plot at Arcadia would not allow Charlene to be buried there when she dies.
William Eisaman, unbeknownst to Badgett, was reburied in Bechtel Cemetery. Badgett testified that she didn’t learn of the transfer until she noticed flowers had disappeared from her brother’s gravesite in Arcadia, and was told by a maintenance worker the body had been moved.
Judge Johnson said in her ruling there is “bad blood” between Badgett and Charlene Eisaman, but how the feud began, what has transpired, and who has done what to whom over the course of time could not be determined based on the testimony, other than what has transpired since July 11, when the letter was sent by Badgett.
Johnson said it appeared that the wishes of William Eisaman could only have been achieved had Badgett conceded and allowed Charlene Eisaman to be buried next to her husband of 27 years as originally intended, and had Badgett not sent the July letter indicating otherwise.
“A family feud of this making always has two sides, and the court feels a bit like a referee who misses the first foul, but sees and punishes the second foul,” Johnson wrote. “There clearly is bad blood between the two ladies at odds here.”
Both sides had requested that legal fees be paid by the other side, but Johnson denied those requests.
She also found claims by Eisaman that Badgett’s legal action was frivolous were without merit.
Despite the ruling, William R. Eisaman Jr. may not rest in peace just yet.
Findlay attorney Jeff Whitman said Monday that Badgett and other survivors of Eisaman plan to appeal the ruling to the 3rd District Court of Appeals, Lima.
The appeal process could take up to a year.
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