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Grave Concerns

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BATESVILLE -

It may have been the largest turnout for a bankruptcy hearing in Independence County history.

Emotions were running high because those in attendance deceased loved ones rest in unmarked graves after the failure of a monument business.

There isn't much in Possum Grape, Arkansas.  And now there is even less with the bankruptcy of Harmon Monuments.

If you paid money towards a tombstone and it has already been engraved, it will likely be yours.

But if it is still a blank slate, your stone will be auctioned off to the highest bidder.

"People have paid cash for these things," says Linda Fulbright of Batesville.  "And he is sitting there with the money hid somewhere and we get our throat cut."

He is Steven Harmon.

Harmon filed for bankruptcy last month.  Hundreds of people who paid him for tombstones they have yet to receive attended a creditors meeting in Batesville Monday.

They heard Harmon blame his soon-to-be-ex-wife for the failure of his business.

They also learned Harmon gave 41 acres to one son and a pickup truck to another son prior to filing for bankruptcy.

"The 41 acres will have to be part of the bankruptcy estate," says Harmon's attorney, Eric Hance of Batesville.

"Did you know about it though?"

"No," answers Hance.  "It will be up to the trustee to determine whether or not he wants to take an interest in the son's pickup truck."

"By not listing that transfer of the real estate to his son…not listing that pick up…causes me major concern that those should have been disclosed," says Lance Miller, a Little Rock attorney representing one of the creditors.  "And those are assets that can be liquidated to hopefully satisfy all these claims."

"If I had money that I could just go out and buy another stone, I would be glad to do that," says Liz Schwede of Biscoe.  "But it is tough when you don't have money."

Most of Harmon's customers claim to have lost in the neighborhood of $500 to $5,000 dollars.  After the IRS and State of Arkansas get their cuts, those creditors will likely be paid pennies on the dollar…if that.

When the bankruptcy trustee eventually sets an auction date, all of the creditors will be welcome to come and bid on the headstones that many have already paid for in part or in full.   There are well over 50 unmarked headstones on the property now, although some of them moved down the road to Yarborough Monuments…a business run by relatives of Harmon.

Air date:  March 4th, 2013