High Court Hears Backyard Burial Case

Elise Piquet buried her husband in the backyard because the cemeteries were full.

The state Supreme Court on Tuesday began hearing a case on Tuesday that will decide whether Elise Piquet, 82, can leave her husband’s remains buried in the backyard of the home they shared in Chester or whether she will need to exhume her husband’s body.

Piquet’s husband, Christopher John Shaboe Doll, died on Oct. 13, 2004, at the age of 85. The couple planned to be buried side by side in Chester, according to court documents.

However, all four cemeteries in town were full.

On Oct. 24, 2004, Piquet went through a licensed funeral director and had her husband buried in the couple’s backyard, with the intention of being buried beside him when she dies.

In June 2005, the town zoning officer issued a cease and desist order, calling the backyard burial a zoning violation, according to court documents.  

Two months later, Piquet appealed. The town withdrew the order, but asked that Piquet adhere to local zoning regulations.

"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."

Piquet continued to fight for remains of the man she knew for 32 years to remain where they were.

Piquet and Doll had met through friends in 1972 in New York and worked on “Live or Let Die” in Jamaica and New Orleans, according to Doll’s obituary.

Doll married another woman who died around 1988, and a couple of years later he and Pique reconnected. They married in 1990 and split their time between homes in his native England and Chester.

The case has made it all the way to the state Supreme Court and  Piquet's attorney said the fear is that the town will seek to disinter Doll, prevent Piquet from being buried there and take the action after Piquet dies.

"I hope that the town will just come to a decision to leave me alone," Piquet said.

The appellate court decided that Piquet did not exhaust her “administrative remedies" and now it’s up to the state’s highest court to decide whether the appellate court properly decided that the trial court lacked jurisdiction.

The town's lawyer, John S. Bennet, said the burial of Piquet's husband on her property violates the state health code and local zoning regulations don't allow it.

"Connecticut laws and regulations require one to get permits for this sort of thing," Bennet said.

Pique said she still wants the property to be her and her husband's final resting place. She said on Tuesday that she now plans to be cremated after she dies and for her ashes to be sprinkled over Doll's grave.

"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."

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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