Despite Overwhelming Evidence Of Grave Desecration, Defendant Gets New Trial

Thursday, August 30, 2018 8:01 am
September 2018 - Volume 46 Number 9

An oil and gas company desecrated seven graves by bulldozing their headstones and contents, but it received a new trial because the trial court mistakenly instructed the jury to consider a statute addressing unmarked graves.

Facts: In 1923, the Crystal Block Coal & Coke Company leased land in Logan County, West Virginia, to establish a mining town for company employees. The mining town, Crystal Block Hollow, included a cemetery for company employees and their families. Crystal Block Hollow is now defunct, and Equitable Production Company (Equitable) planned to relocate a gas pipeline on some wooded, unimproved land within the old mining town.

Equitable produces oil and natural gas, and General Pipeline Construction, Inc. (General Pipeline), builds pipelines for Equitable. Before General Pipeline began building the new pipeline through Crystal Block Hollow, Equitable checked its title documents and marked the right-of-way and points of ingress and egress.

In August 2004, a General Pipeline bulldozer operator bulldozed through the Crystal Block Cemetery to build an access road for the pipeline construction project. Before this occurred, the bulldozer operator had been warned that there was a cemetery in the area; nevertheless, he did not inspect the area he planned to bulldoze. He plowed the road through the cemetery, removing headstones, crosses, and fieldstones that marked graves.

Other General Pipeline employees later dug up some of these grave markers from the dirt pushed aside by[..]