COALFIELD, Tenn. (WATE) - Complaints against a Chattanooga-based grave marker company have now reached the Knoxville area. An attorney representing the business says the company has closed its doors.
Chattanooga police report dozens of people have complained about Wichman Monuments. Many of them have signed contracts, paid in advance, and are still waiting for delivery of grave markers.
Since no one answers the company phone, families are confused and upset.
A family in Morgan County has waited months for a tombstone to be installed. They paid the monument company thousands of dollars for a marker in November, expecting it to be set up weeks ago.
"They told me it would be here in 12 to 14 weeks. I waited 16 weeks to call them and no answer," said Linda Roberts.
Donald Roberts, a Y-12 retiree, died in July of last year. He's buried at Estes Cemetery in Coalfield. The family paid nearly $3,600 last November second to Wichman Monuments of Chattanooga, one of the largest companies of its kind in the state.
"It breaks my heart, breaks my heart, that he would do this to us. I trusted him," said their daughter Kim Lively.
The man she trusted was Travis Wichman. He's the sales manager of the 72-year-old family business.
Lively says she and her mother sat in their kitchen with Travis Wichman in early November. Linda Roberts found the business online and liked what she read.
"Family owned, they had a good rating with the Better Business Bureau. They had a tombstone that I liked," she said.
The family chose an upright grave maker and expected to receive pictures from Travis Wichman. They never arrived, even though Wichman had their money.
"It's so disrespectful to my father. My father deserves better," said Lively.
WATE 6 On Your Side called Wichman's cell phone. There was no answer. The family has called too, and their calls were never returned.
With the power of social media, families have set up a Facebook page called "Victims of Wichman's."
"They're as far Georgia and the Atlanta area that's been affected by this company," said Lively.
In Chattanooga, Cathy Quarles and her sister have a grave maker problem with Wichman's. So does Elijah Early from Chatsworth, Georgia. As more people complained the pressure mounted. The company's once stellar business reputation an A rating with the Better Business Bureau was quickly dropped to NR, no rating, and its accreditation was revoked.
"We just noticed a pattern starting to develop recently, so we put an alert on the file advising people not to do business with this company," said BBB president Tony Binkley.
On March 9, an attorney representing the business wrote in a statement: "Wichman Monuments has closed due to rising costs and loss of key employees." He said, "We are aware some of our customers are upset and confused at our sudden closure, but we will resolve as many outstanding orders as possible.
The news is somewhat of a comfort to Linda Roberts and her daughter. They'll only be satisfied when Donald Roberts' tombstone is finally set up.
"They don't care what they do to the families," said Linda Roberts.
The Hamilton County trustee's office reports Wichman Monuments owes over $4,000 in back property taxes for 2016 and 2017. Chattanooga police say they're investigating the company for possible fraud.
The Roberts family trusts that Wichman will have the grave stone installed as soon as possible.