City versus Crochet

Gary Crochet bought land from the City of Donaldsonville which held 13 graves on it. Now, the two sides are headed to court to determine the right of passage for visitors.

Donaldsonville resident Gary Crochet bought a 198-foot by 62-foot lot from the City of Donaldsonville in February of this year. In buying the lot, Crochet, as part of the sale, accumulated 13 graves that were placed between 1996 and 2007. However, now Crochet and the City of Donaldsonville are headed for trial on August 7 at the 23rd Judicial Court in Donaldsonville. Why? According to City Attorney Chuck Long Crochet isn’t allowing people to visit their loved ones who were buried on Crochet’s new property.

“It’s not a knock on the door and say can I go see my loved one,” Long said. “It’s a right of passage to where if I feel that I want to go, you know some people want to go and talk to there loved ones, some will bring flowers and they want to go when they want to go.”

Long said Crochet wants them to decide when to go at his convenience.

However, Crochet says that’s not the case. Crochet allows anybody to visit the graves, as he understands by law he has to do so. Crochet says only one family has asked to freely enter his property to visit a deceased loved one, and he gave them permission.

Since purchasing the land, Crochet installed a fence to separate his land from the Protestant Cemetery. With that, caused citizens of Donaldsonville to file a petition against Crochet claiming denial of access.

“The fence is temporary because the cemetery kept coming through with back hoes and the vault truck tearing up my yard,” Crochet said, who has lived there his whole life. “This never was an entrance of the cemetery.”

“When I purchased, I bought everything,” Crochet said. “I have all rights, reserves and privileges, and anything that they had, they sold me. They have no rights to this anymore whatsoever, including the graves.”

Long says when the city and council members were discussing selling the property, Crochet told them he would not deny anyone access and what he’ll do is section of a spot where they can go and visit their people.

“That’s not what he’s doing,” Long said. “It’s call me and I’ll let you know when you can go. Instead of doing what he promised, he told the city council that he’ll build a fence around the graves, he’s not doing that.”

Before the property was purchased, Crochet said he tried to get the city to subdivide that corner out of the property, but now that they’ve taken his bid of $20,199 the city wants him to do it and give it back to them.

“They are trying to force me to give it back to the cemetery,” Crochet said. “They are making me look like a villain here. During the negotiations of buying the property, I wanted them to divide it across the back or down the middle and it was all in compliance that way they would have had access if they would have done that.”

Long said now the city wants him to build a fence, and at the city’s expense.

“We’ll pay for it to let the people visit the graves,” Long said. “He promised one thing and they took his word that he’d do it. By law he has to let the people who want to visit the graves visit. He bought the property with the graves already on it.”

Crochet says he never put a fence around the graves, only separating his land from the cemetery’s, “access was never denied to anyone.”

However, if the city wants the land Crochet said it would have to buy.

“You want that corner, buy it,” Crochet said. “My price is starting at $12,000 and you pay to have it sub-divided and fenced. That’s what it’s going to cost them.”

Long said the city will not buy the land back and added that Crochet had full knowledge when he bought the property to whoever wanted to visit the gravesites.

“He wants to sell it back but you can’t have it both ways,” Long said. “If he didn’t want to be bothered with the graves, he shouldn’t have bought it.”

Long said the city offered to build the fence and tried negotiating with him on it, but Crochet refused, now it’s on to the courts.

“All we’re doing is asking the court to right a passage to the graveyard,” Long said. “He bought it with the knowledge of a graveyard on his property. He should do the right thing and allow us to build a fence.”

Crochet added: “I don’t want those graves moved. I also shouldn’t have to give away what I spent $20,000 on. I knew the graves were there. The reason I purchased the property was because they were going to take that and have this whole lot, which the property line isn’t but six inches off of my house, lined with the graves all the way down my house. What does that do to my property?

I’m a born and raised catholic and will die a catholic, I was brought up with good intentions and my dad instilled in me a lot of beliefs. My belief is leaving the dead rest. But it’s beyond that. My sympathy is with these family members; they didn’t ask to be put here. But don’t hold it against me because your superiors, Leroy and David Joseph screwed up.”