Virginia family may finally be able to bury Army veteran years after death
PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY, Va. - For nearly two years, an area family has been fighting to bury their loved one in his final resting place. On Friday, supporters tell FOX 5 there is an update in that battle, which also includes some of the family’s supporters now asking for Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin to now investigate.
A Virginia family first interviewed with FOX 5 on their battle back in March 2022, saying at the time, they had been fighting for about 10 months to have 82-year-old Army Veteran Ellis Maxfield buried in plots the family says he had purchased when he was alive. Maxfield died battling Leukemia in the summer of 2021.
The cemetery at the center of this battle is First Woodbine Church Cemetery, previously known as Woodbine Cemetery in Manassas.
The family, showed FOX 5 Maxfield’s receipts, saying the Veteran had at least two legal rights to be laid to rest next to his mother and grandmother. The family says a newer cemetery owner denied that request. The family also told FOX 5 they were denied the request to bury Maxfield in other family space.
FOX 5 was told part of the issue was connected to the previous cemetery owner, a man named Pastor Gene Wells, who was believed to have sold some of the same plots to different families.
Joe Wyatt, of the Maxfield family supporters, told FOX 5 there was an agreement in court on Friday, finally allowing Ellis Maxfield to be buried at Woodbine sometime next week. However, he also told FOX 5 in that agreement, the family had to give up plot space, pay for burial costs their loved one had already paid for, and also spend around $50,000 in attorney fees to get here.
Wyatt spoke with FOX 5 over Zoom from his home in Kansas.
"There people that are buried that are in the cemetery now, they have no voice to come back and say, this is not the way it was planned. This is not the way it was planned, it was not the way it should happen. It’s not the way it should have happened. Somebody needs to step in," Wyatt said, "… their families are being cut-off, are being told you can’t come in – this is my cemetery, this is my property, you don’t have right to come in here and that’s not true."
Wyatt shared a 2003 cemetery survey showing the Maxfield family plots in red, with 24 plots underneath it all reading "Wyatt." That’s just a portion of the plots Joe Wyatt says his family owns at Woodbine. He and relatives tell FOX 5 they’ve reached out, asking Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin to investigate the matter.
Wyatt expressed concerns that other family claims to plot ownership won’t be honored as well. He believes the newer cemetery owner submitted false property documents and is also questioning where a total of around $1.8 million disappeared under the previous owner. Wyatt says part of that missing money involves a loan the pastor took out against the cemetery and defaulted on.
FOX 5 reached out to the Maxfield family about the agreement but we have not heard back. It’s not clear if they’re allowed to speak on the agreement. Neither side’s attorney nor the judge would respond to FOX 5’s request for information either.
Governor Youngkin's spokeswoman Macaulay Porte released the following statement to FOX 5 about the matter:
While this does not fall under the administration’s purview, the Commissioner of the Department of Veteran Services has reached out to the family and offered additional accommodations.
READ MORE: VA family’s fight to have an Army veteran buried
In a statement to FOX 5, a Virginia State Police Spokesperson wrote:
The Virginia State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation's Fairfax Field Office initiated an investigation in March 2021 into allegations of financial misconduct committed by a previous owner of Woodbine Cemetery in Manassas. The investigation remains ongoing at this time, in conjunction with the Prince William County Commonwealth's Attorney. No charges or arrests have been made at this stage of the investigation.
The newer cemetery owner explained over the phone on Friday, he’s still trying to sort out issues created by the pastor that could impact several families. He declined to interview.
This is a developing story. Stay with FOX 5 for updates.