Manassas cemetery illegally sold land, causing families to lose burial plots

On Thursday, FOX 5 reported on the emotional story of a family fighting for nearly 10-months to have an 82-year-old Army veteran named Ellis Maxfield buried at a family plot in a Manassas, Virginia cemetery. 

FOX 5 has learned there are actions Prince William County can take to fix some issues the Maxfield family and others are having at the cemetery. However, the zoning work it requires has been held up due to a property ownership battle that’s apparently still going through court. 

David Cornwell's family hasn't gotten their money back after the Woodbine Cemetery illegally sold nearly $50,000 worth of burial grounds. 

"You know when you have the death of a loved one, it’s – it’s at a sad state at that time," Cornwell said. "And it seems like the preachers or the cemetery folks got you. And you want to do the best for your loved one. Just know who you’re dealing with. We thought, you know, we had everything going in the right direction but unfortunately, it didn’t turn out that way."

Cornwell reported this to county authorities. 

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Prince William County issued violations to the cemetery property after learning that a pastor who was previously running the church and cemetery was illegally selling plots on land not zoned for a burial ground. One area was zoned for septic overflow. 

It’s been previously reported that the pastor faced bankruptcy and a new owner purchased the foreclosed property, but a county official tells FOX 5 the property ownership battle began around the time of the violations.

RELATED: VA family’s fight to have an Army veteran buried

"The county was diligent in issuing the violations, but then it got caught up in the courts which made it much more difficult and the court systems, especially during COVID times, were moving very, very slowly. So hopefully that will speed up here and in the near future, we'll get this resolved," said Tom Smith, Prince William County Director of Public Works. "We believe the owner has come in and started meeting with us on submitting revised plans and revised special used plans to kind of quote on quote make it right. We are still waiting for that. But some of the issues are tied up in legal issues that caused some delay in getting this worked out." 


Prince William County Public Works Director Tom Smith told FOX 5 no official plans have been submitted by the current owner yet. However, once proper ownership is determined, the county can move forward to address the cemetery’s zoning issues, which could potentially open more land to families currently fighting for their space at the cemetery. 

Smith mentioned one possibility for the current owner would be to hook up the property to water and sewer so that the area zoned for septic overflow could actually be approved for cemetery land. 

There is a lot more going on behind the scenes. FOX 5 found an assault charge online against the current owner that appears to have been filed last year by the pastor accused of illegally selling land. Court records show the charge was dropped. 

David Cornwell hopes the county would form some kind of cemetery oversight board because of everything going on at Woodbine.