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Error by prosecutors prompts judge to dismiss charge against funeral director in alleged illegal cemetery

Mobile County Metro Jail

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    MOBILE, AL (WALA) — An error by Prichard prosecutors has prompted a judge to dismiss criminal charges against an Eight Mile man accused of operating a funeral home without a license.

Presiding Mobile County Circuit Judge Michael Youngpeter was scheduled to hold a trial for Cederick McMillian on Monday. But he dismissed the charge on Friday after defense lawyer Travis Grant pointed out that city prosecutors had cited the wrong version of the ordinance under which McMillian has been charged.

The judge previously had dismissed two other charges that a Prichard municipal judge had convicted McMillian on – violating a cemetery moratorium and failure to obtain a health department permit.

Grant said this brings the municipal case to an end.

“It’s a good outcome, obviously, for my client,” he told FOX10 News.

McMillan was operating what city officials contend was an illegal cemetery at Heritage Memorial Gardens. Some relatives of loved ones buried there have complained that McMillian mistreated the bodies and that the land, itself, easily floods and is unsuitable for a cemetery. Grant said it has not been in operation in a couple of years.

Investigators from the Mobile County Sheriff’s Department exhumed three graves at the cemetery in June 2019.

The municipal charge that was supposed to go before Youngpeter Monday cited Ordinance No. 1706 has been amended several times.

During a meeting with the judge, Prichard special prosecutor Scott Hawk asked that the criminal complaint be amended to reflect the proper charge under Ordinance No. 1967, which has been in effect since 2010. But Grant objected.

Grant said too much time has now passed for Prichard to be able to re-issue the ticket under the proper ordinance.

“It’s been too long,” he said. “They would not be able to rewrite it under a different ordinance.”

Hawk could not be reached for comment.

A Prichard municipal judge in 2019 convicted McMillian and two affiliated organizations, Heritage Funeral Home and New Birth Community Church in 2019. He issued a $500 fine plus court cost on each of the three offenses. But the defense appealed to Mobile County Circuit Court.

Despite the victory, McMillian’s legal problems are far from over. He is scheduled to go on trial in October on the abuse-of-corpse charge. Authorities allege that the graves were not properly sealed and failed to meet industry standards.

The defendant also has a pending charge of failure to properly register as a sex offender. That stems from a 2012 conviction for sodomy and sexual abuse of a child younger than 14. Prosecutors allege he failed to inform authorities of his place of employment and was too close to a school.

But Grant said his client is glad to resolve at least one piece of his legal issues.

“It’s, of course, a relief to him and to the church that this chapter of it has been put behind them and they can, hopefully, move forward with things,” he said.

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