BARLING, Ark. — A grieving mother is searching for answers after she was scammed following the unexpected death of her baby earlier this year.
She says she bought his headstone from a local business and now, months later, her son’s grave remains unmarked.
“It hurts you know, I feel like I can’t completely put my son to rest because no one knows he’s here other than the people who were here when we buried him you know. There is nothing that says that he’s here,” said mother Kassi Shelton.
Shelton’s son Tairyn was almost five months old when he unexpectedly died in March of 2022. A few days after his death they went to look at headstones and were told to try Stonebridge Monuments in Barling. The money she used to buy it came from family and friends.
“I went down there and filled out the paperwork for it," she said. "He told me it would take six to eight weeks, he actually had it on hand. He actually had a couple because I’d picked a teddy bear."
In full, she paid just over $1,800.
Six weeks went by and she didn’t hear anything, so she called the company who told her he’d call to go over the layout before he started engraving, but never did.
Once she finally got ahold of him again, he told her to give him more time. Months went by with her and family members calling and going by there with no luck.
Now six months later, her baby’s grave remains unmarked.
"It was excuse after excuse and once again he’s ghosted, my entire family," Shelton said. "Now, I’m mad to the point that I feel like I’ve been taken for my money. Which it wasn’t even my money, it was donations from people that supported me at that time of grief."
5NEWS has called all numbers associated with the business and all were disconnected. We even went to the business which was an empty office with no one in sight.
According to Google, the business is permanently closed.
5NEWS also confirmed with the City of Barling that the water has been shut off at the location since the end of July.
"I feel like a place of business like that, you’ve got to put your heart and soul into it and you actually have to have a heart for something like that and it just feels like he doesn’t have it," she said.
Shelton says she just wants to make sure this never happens to anyone else. At one point, she went to Stonebridge and men happened to be working on the water lines in front of the business.
"I asked them 'do you know anything about this gentleman, is this something you are doing for him?' They told me no. They told me I was the fifth person that week, but the third person that day that has come up there and told a similar story," she said.
According to the Better Business Bureau, Stonebridge Monument has an F rating, the worst you can get.
As for Shelton, the last time she texted the owner, she told him her loss isn’t going to be his gain.
"I would be happy with the stone and I’ll take it to somebody else who is actually going to do the work they say they are going to do," she said.
After seeing the promotions on air for this story, two separate local men have contacted 5NEWS and plan to purchase a headstone for Shelton's child. We put them in contact with her and she says the news of the kind deed is such a blessing.
Also since airing this promotion, we are learning this mother is not alone. In the last 24 hours, 5NEWS has heard from numerous people saying Stonebridge Monuments scammed them out of money as well.
One family told us on Wednesday, Sept. 21, they lost over $2,000 in purchasing a headstone for a family member. We also spoke to one lawyer who says she is representing two separate families that have filed civil lawsuits against the company.
We will be sure to continue to follow this developing story, as many families work to get their money back and get a headstone for their loved ones.
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