HARTFORD, Conn. (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, which will hear arguments in the case on Tuesday. Depending on the outcome, the 82-year-old Pique could be forced to exhume and relocate her husband's body. The court is not expected to make a decision that day.
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 The officer later rescinded the order, but told Piquet she still had to comply with the zoning rules.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."
Pique 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 Pique 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, Pique had his remains buried under the supervision of a licensed funeral director behind their 18th century farm house. Pique said the funeral director later notified the town as required, which led to the dispute.
"It seemed to me that no one would object," Pique said. "I didn't realize you needed a permit."
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.
The Supreme Court will review the Appellate Court's decision.
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, 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."
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