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UPDATE: Families outraged after Wichman Monuments closes their doors

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CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) -

UPDATE: Friday, the Wichman Monument company closed its doors after more than 70 years in business.

Dozens of families say the company has taken thousands of dollars in payments but has not delivered headstones.

A lawyer for the owner of the company, Trent Wichman, said he plans to contact each of the customers in the next week. The statement also said the company will do its best to finish as many orders as they can, but customers said that’s not enough.

"My son died over in Dalton, 36 years old," said William Sligh.

William misses his oldest son, Travis, every day. He passed away last May, but William still has not finished laying him to rest.

"I walked through the stones to see if they may have had his out here, but they don't," William said looking at the stones standing in the company’s front lawn.

He ordered a headstone through Wichman Monuments nearly a year ago. He's sent the company nearly $2,000 in payments but hasn't heard from them since last month.

"Every time I call them the lines are busy, or not busy, but the mailboxes are full," explained William.

So, he drove roughly 80 miles to knock on the business doors, only to learn it's closed.

A Facebook group called “Victims of Wichman's” has more than 80 members, it's filled with stories just like William's.

Venita Jensen started the group.

"It makes it extremely tough because purchasing your headstone is kind of the last thing you actually get to do for that person,” said Venita, “It's very personal and it's very sentimental."

Her friend still has no headstone.

In a statement, the watchman’s lawyer said they will do their best to fill as many orders as they can.

“The business, located at 5225 Brainerd Road in Chattanooga was founded by Fred Wichman and was being managed by his grandson, Trent Wichman. The closure was precipitated by rising costs and the loss of some key employees to illness over the past month.

Trent Wichman said, "Wichman Monuments has been known for its customer service and quality products since the 1940's. While I am aware that some of our customers are upset and confused at our sudden closure, I want to assure everyone that we will do our best to uphold our tradition of customer service as we resolve as many of the outstanding orders as is possible."

Mr. Wichman has hired the Presley Law Firm to represent him in winding up Wichman Monuments. Terrance Jones, associate attorney with Presley Law Firm, said "We plan to contact each of Wichman Monuments' customers in the next week. In the meantime, we ask for a little more patience from those customers as we begin the long process of winding up a long-standing and well-respected business in our community."

Customers tell Channel 3 that's not enough.

"I don't believe a word of it,” urged Venita, “I think that they're going to drag it along as far as they can until he files for bankruptcy and leaves everybody with nothing. That's what I truly feel."

"Well how come they keep dodging us if they're going to make it right?" asked William.

The company's better business bureau score was revoked.  The BBB states there are more than 30 complaints filed against the company all dealing with stones not being delivered even after they are paid for.

The police department has also launched a fraud investigation into the company.


PREVIOUS STORY: A Chattanooga grave monument company is closings its doors after a string of complaints.

Wichman Monuments, Inc., a 72-year-old maker of grave markers and other statuary, was founded by Fred Wichman and was being managed by his grandson, Trent Wichman.

According to the Presley Law Firm, the closure has come after rising costs and the loss of key employees to illness over the past month.

Trent Wichman said “Wichman Monuments has been known for its customer service and quality products since the l940’s. While I am aware that some of our customers are upset and confused at our sudden closure, I want to assure everyone that We Will do our best to uphold our tradition of customer service as we resolve as many of the outstanding orders as is possible.”

Wichman hired the Presley Law Firm to represent him in winding up and closing Wichman Monuments. 

Terrance Jones, associate attorney With Presley Law Firm, said “We plan to contact each of Wichman Monuments’ customers in the next Week. In the meantime, We ask for a little more patience from those customers as We begin the long process of Winding up a long-standing and well-respected business in our community.”

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