Former funeral director here gets jail time

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Suffolk News-Herald

The former owner of the city’s largest historically black cemetery will begin serving a three-month sentence in Western Tidewater Regional Jail for violating a perpetual care agreement on Friday.

Suffolk Circuit Court Judge Rodham T. Delk on Monday sentenced Abraham Applewhite, the former owner of troubled Carver Memorial Cemetery, to 13 years for a string of charges related to the operation of the East Washington Street graveyard. Delk suspended all but three months of the sentence.


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Applewhite initially received three years each for felony obtaining money under false pretenses and felony violation of a perpetual agreement and 12 months each for two counts of writing worthless checks, two counts of illegally transporting bodies, two counts of conducting a funeral without a license and one count of misdemeanor perpetual care agreement violation.

Applewhite’s attorney, Johnnie Mizelle, urged the court to put his client on probation rather than giving him jail time.

&uot;Abraham Applewhite is not a bad person, he has just made some poor business decisions,&uot; he said. &uot;As a result of his bad business decision, he has virtually nothing today.

&uot;He’s already been severely punished for his actions,&uot; said Mizelle, referring to Applewhite’s home and business losses.

This summer, Applewhite lost the family’s cemetery, selling it just days before which the city’s sold it on the auction block for back taxes, Mizelle said. He’s also been forced to sell his family’s $350,000 home on Dutch Road and the family’s former funeral home operation on East Constance Road over the past year.

Delk refused, citing Applewhite’s prior record of unscrupulous businesses practices in recent years.

&uot;The funeral business is regulated and requires funeral directors to be licensed and follow standards of professional conduct because they are involved with the general public at a time when they (the public) are most vulnerable to misconduct,&uot; Delk said.

&uot;Mr. Applewhite has a fairly significant prior record…that goes to show he is not a person who operates in a scrupulous manner,&uot; he said. &uot;I do consider incarceration to be appropriate.&uot;

Delk also ordered Applewhite to pay $3,256 in restitution and put him on probation for five years. During that time, Applewhite can have no contact with any aspect of the funeral home business.

The court’s actions come after years of professional woes for Applewhite. After repeated citations at both the funeral home and cemetery, the state has stripped Applewhite of both his funeral director’s and cemetery operator’s license over the past two years.