HARTFORD, Conn. (CBS Connecticut/AP) — When Elise Piquet’s husband died in 2004, she had a dilemma because all four cemeteries in their hometown of Chester were full. She and her husband loved the small town along the Connecticut River, so she had him buried on their 11-acre property with plans to join him there after she passed.
But that decision led to a court fight that has made it all the way to the Connecticut Supreme Court Tuesday. Depending on the outcome, the 82-year-old Piquet could be forced to exhume and relocate her husband’s body. The court did not make a decision yesterday.
Chester’s zoning enforcement officer issued a cease-and-desist order to Piquet in 2005, eight months after her husband was laid to rest, saying he couldn’t be buried there because local regulations don’t allow interments on residential property. The officer later rescinded the order, but told Piquet she still had to comply with the zoning rules.
“Absolute rage, rage,” Piquet said, when asked about her reaction to the zoning enforcement officer’s order. “I can’t imagine digging up someone who I loved so much … and I just refused.”
John Bennet, attorney for the town of Chester, argued before the court on Tuesday that Piquet did not get a zoning permit to bury her husband on their property and that it violates state health codes.
“The unequivocal part of this is that there’s a violation,” Bennet said before the court, according to the Hartford Courant.
Piquet told the Courant outside the courthouse she didn’t think she needed a permit originally.
“I just thought it was a matter of historical precedent and that I could just do it,” she told the paper. “I didn’t mean to break any rules, but I didn’t know there were any.”
She added that she sees no point in the town wanting to make her move her husband’s remains now.
“It’s just a pointless thing, he’s just a bundle of bones now,” she told WTNH-TV. “Why not just let him rest in peace?”
Piquet and Christopher Shaboe Doll first met through friends in New York City in 1971. He married another woman who died around 1988, and a couple of years later he and Piquet reconnected. They married in 1990 and split their time between homes in his native England and Chester.
On Oct. 13, 2004, he succumbed to a staph infection at age 85. Later that month, Piquet had his remains buried under the supervision of a licensed funeral director behind their 18th century farm house. Piquet said the funeral director later notified the town as required, which led to the dispute.
Piquet ended up suing the southern Connecticut town in October 2007, asking a Superior Court judge to declare that she had the right to use her land for her husband’s interment, as well as her own. The judge ruled in favor of the town.
An appeal to the state Appellate Court followed, but the judges didn’t address the central issue of burials on residential property. Instead, the court ruled in 2010 that Piquet’s lawsuit was improper and ordered it dismissed because she was required by law to first use the town’s zoning appeals process. Piquet did file an appeal of the officer’s order with the local zoning board of appeals, but withdrew it after the officer rescinded the order.
Piquet said she still wants the property, about 30 miles east of New Haven, to be her and her husband’s final resting place.
“He loved Chester very, very much. He loved this place as much as he loved England,” she said. “It’s nice property. Nobody is really near me at all.”
(TM and © Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)