Sisters sue city of Arlington over burial of brother

Updated: November 08, 2019 10:23 PM

A family is suing a rural Minnesota city after they say they endured a nightmare trying to bury their brother. The city of Arlington is in litigation with two of Joel Trebesch’s sisters.

Trebesch died in a car crash on Oct. 19, 2018. 


“He was a character, he was a joker, he loved his nieces and nephews,” said his sister, Precious Stier. “He guided my path in life.”

Stier and nine other siblings decided to bury him at the Arlington Public Cemetery.

They grew up in Arlington and picked a plot that was easy for family members to access. 

“[The city] brought us the plots, they gave us the list of what we could pick from,” said Stier.

 She told us that after the funeral, her sister, Joy Schwanke, got a call from the city with bad news.

“About two weeks after, we found out we had to move him because the cemetery put him in the wrong spot, or the plot was not measured properly,” said Stier.  

The city paid to relocate Trebesch. Officials also picked a time and date for the reburial in May, when the weather improved, according to the sisters.

Stier and Schwanke told KSTP, however, the city put him back into the ground too soon on the day of the reburial. 

“We had to pull him back out because the minister wasn't here,” said Stier. 

He was lowered into his final resting place later that day.

“How could this be taking place?” said Schwanke. “I don’t think they understand how this has hurt a person, inside and out, emotionally and physically.”

“You can’t get over it, it’s just really sad.”

The sisters have now filed a lawsuit against the city seeking at least $50,000 in damages. They said they want an apology.

“I’ll have to live with that the rest of my life,” said Stier. “Words can't explain what it feels like.”

“I would've liked them to come forward and say ‘sorry we made a mistake’ but that hasn't even come. What I would like for the city to take responsibility for their actions, what they did wrong.”

The city of Arlington Administrator Pat Melvin declined KSTP's request for an interview and wouldn’t answer any questions. He said he is unable to comment because of the pending litigation. 

He did send 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS the following statement: 

“It is an unfortunate incident however the body was buried in the correct location based on the city’s knowledge at the time. Information later became available that required moving the decedent. The city had majority consent from the ten siblings causing us to be surprised by this lawsuit. This is in litigation restricting the city from disclosing further details about the situation.”

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Callan Gray

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