(Photo: Reuters/Joshua Roberts)
After a four year legal battle with the city of Stevenson in Alabama, a 74-year-old widower has reached a compromise to have his deceased wife, currently buried in his front yard, removed and cremated. He was previously sued by the city for burying his wife in his front yard, per her wishes, without a permit. Since the legal battle began four years ago, the widower has gone to great lengths, including temporarily naming his house as a place of worship, to keep his wife buried in his front yard.
James Davis lost his wife, Patsy, in 2009 after she suffered a series of health ailments that left her in severe pain; eventually, doctors reportedly told Davis that it would be better for her to pass, as extending her life would result in more pain. The couple had been married for 48 years and had five children together, and, granting her dying wish, Davis buried her in the front yard of the log cabin they built together and shared for decades.
Davis did initially seek a permit to have his wife legally buried in his front yard, but the Stevenson City Council voted to deny his request. He ignored the decision and buried his wife anyway, and he was sued by the city a month later. Davis has now been involved in a four year legal battle with the city, and his most recent appearance in court was earlier this week when the state Supreme Court ruled in a 5-3 decision to refuse to take up Stevenson's appeal, thus upholding a previous court's ruling that Stevenson remove his wife's remains.
Although Davis has been ordered by the court to remove his wife's body, he suggested to the court a compromise in which he digs up his wife's remains, has her cremated, and then re-buries her in the front yard. In spite of this agreement, Davis told the Associated Press that he "still ain't got no justice" from the court proceedings.
During his four-year legal battles, Davis has reportedly spent thousands of dollars to keep his wife's body where it lays, and after his recent court appearances gained national news, the elderly man was contacted by a screenwriter from California who suggested he protect his wife's burial plot by turning his private residence into a church.
"I've always wanted to be a preacher anyway," Davis previously told the Associated Press, adding "I'd like my kids to come to church." Although a website was even set up to promote the Stevenson Bible Church, the plan never came to fruition.
In spite of the state Supreme Court's recent decision, Davis' lawyer, Timothy Pittman, told Al.com that he is hoping the city will reconsider its decision against Davis once they see how difficult it will be to remove the body, especially since the rest of the cemetery display, including the headstone, will remain.
"The court's order is for the remains to be removed, but Mr. Davis does not intend to remove the headstone or the cement vault and the casket will remain," Pittman told AL.com. "Hopefully, the city will reconsider since the site will never be moved."
"When it comes right down to it, the result hasn't changed anything for anybody but Mr. Davis," he contnued. "In particular, exhuming a body is a crazy remedy and a really emotionally trying thing. When it's time for a shovel to meet dirt, hopefully the city will see it's not worth it."