Year-in-review: Cemetery owner sentenced to jail

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 31, 2004

The long-running dispute over conditions at the city’s largest historically black cemetery ended with a jail sentence for its former owner in 2004.

In November, Suffolk Circuit Court Judge Rodham T. Delk sentenced Abraham Applewhite to 13 years for a string of charges related to the operation of the East Washington Street graveyard. He suspended all but three months of the sentence, which Applewhite is now serving out in Western Tidewater Regional Jail.

During the bench trial, Delk found Applewhite guilty of felony obtaining money under false pretenses, felony violation of a perpetual care agreement and two counts each of writing worthless checks, illegally transporting bodies and conducting a funeral without a license.

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Applewhite’s indictment caps off months of controversy surrounding the cemetery, the target of multiple complaints related to the Applewhite’s lack of perpetual maintenance in recent years.

In October 2003, Applewhite’s wife and son voluntarily surrendered the cemetery’s operating license to the state. In January, the state Cemetery Board denied Applewhite’s appeals to have the license reinstated.

Over the summer, just days before the city auctioned off the cemetery for back taxes, Applewhite sold the cemetery for $200,000 to DD&B Corp., a company formed by Virginia Beach partners W. Michael Robinson and William Mann.

The two investors have hired Vincent Newby, who ran Norfolk’s public cemeteries for more than three decades, to operate the cemetery.