ANNAPOLIS – The Maryland Court of Special Appeals intervened Tuesday in a feud between an Anne Arundel County woman and her mother-in-law, ruling that the woman cannot move her late husband’s body.
Evelyn Shew said she wants her husband, Harry, buried next to her in a cemetery in Glen Burnie. But her husband, who died in a 1992 car crash at age 45, is buried in his family’s plot in Howard County.
Shew said she and her husband of 24 years had not made burial plans because of their relatively young ages and that, when he died, she was pressured by her mother-in-law, Marie DeFlavis, into burying him in the family’s plot.
But almost immediately after the burial, relations between DeFlavis and the widow Shew turned hostile.
Court records said that flowers left by Shew on her husband’s grave were regularly removed. DeFlavis once left a note on the grave claiming that the plots were hers and that Shew “was not to touch any of the flowers there.”
Court documents also show that Shew was not consulted when a headstone was placed at the grave with the words “From loving mother and brother” in 1994.
Fueling the bad blood between the two was a $25,000 loan Deflavis had made to her late son. After the widow Shew paid back $10,000 of the loan, DeFlavis sued her for the other $15,000. DeFlavis lost the lawsuit.
Now the two no longer speak.
Shew, who has since bought cemetery plots of her own in Glen Haven cemetery, sued in 1995 for the right to disinter her husband’s body and rebury him in her plot.
She said the current state of relations between her and her in-laws made her “uneasy” and uncomfortable visiting the grave site, and that the distance from her Severna Park home to his grave makes visiting difficult.
Moving her husband’s body would not only allow her to visit more, but would ensure that she can be buried alongside him, Shew said. The DeFlavis family plot has only enough room for the mother, her husband and her two sons.
“There’s no peace as far as for my husband. There’s no peace for my children or I,” Shew testified in a trial in Howard County Circuit Court in May 1997.
Circuit Judge James B. Dudley rejected Shew’s claim and a three-judge panel of the Court of Special Appeals upheld the his decision.
“(Mrs. Shew) failed to prove a sound reason for why the court should take the extraordinary step of removing the deceased’s body from its place of rest,” the court wrote in its opinion.
Under Maryland law, the burden of proof falls on the plaintiff to show why a body must be moved.
“It’s a pretty serious thing to disinter someone’s body once they’re laid to rest,” said Wendy Zerwitz, DeFlavis’ attorney.
Shew has not decided whether to challenge the court’s decision, said her attorney Hil O’Herlihy.
Neither side could say whether Shew will be buried with her husband. During last year’s trial, DeFlavis had offered to sell Shew one of the family plots, but O’Herlihy said the offer came “at an inflated price.” Zerwitz would not comment on the offer.
“Hopefully we can all move on,” Zerwitz said.