More than 200 people packed a federal courtroom Tuesday hoping for good news regarding American Mausoleum. Instead, they learned little had changed since the bankruptcy filing last month.

More than 200 people packed a federal courtroom Tuesday hoping for good news regarding American Mausoleum. Instead, they learned little had changed since the bankruptcy filing last month.


Many had hoped a judge, either the one sitting before them or another one, perhaps in Peoria County Circuit Court, could do something to keep the mausoleum open or at least allow them some access to the locked building.


That still could happen but U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Thomas Perkins declined to outright dismiss the Chapter 7 bankruptcy petition, saying he wanted more time to investigate American’s assets.


At a hearing in March, he indicated he might "abstain," or effectively dismiss the petition, because he could do little to help those affected by the closure. Attorneys with the state of Illinois have said it is possible they might ask a Peoria County judge to appoint a receiver who could tap into the trust money, a move that is normally not allowed.


The trust funds in question, which total $568,000, are for perpetual care and pre-need trust funds. Under that scenario, the state could ask to allow the receiver to use some of that money to keep the mausoleum open, disperse the money among the creditors or use it to improve the site for sale.


Perkins is barred from taking such action.


The judge opted not to dismiss the petition after hearing he didn’t have to throw out the federal case as the state could still file a complaint in Peoria County which would not affect the protection against lawsuits afforded by the Chapter 7 filing.


Those with unfilled crypts as well as those with loved ones entombed at the mausoleum packed the courthouse. There was a line out the door to get through security as well as a line to get into the courtroom. Officials switched from the smaller bankruptcy courtroom to one used by the district judges to accommodate more people. Even then, it wasn’t enough.


Perkins tried to address many of the concerns by asking American’s attorney Gary Rafool to go over much of what was done at the earlier hearing. Essentially, Rafool told the judge, there is very little money left for a receiver or the trustee to use to keep the place open. Additionally, his client had tried for a year to sell the mausoleum to no avail.


Rafool argued against outright dismissal by saying it would deny his client protection from lawsuits and also wasn’t necessary because he believed the state could still act.


In March, the mausoleum filed for bankruptcy. There’s no cash in the bank, the filing stated. The mortgage runs $9,000 a month with expenses of nearly $5,000 monthly. That doesn’t include badly needed repairs to a leaky roof, which Rafool has said would cost about $150,000.


Officials have said the company, Wilton Services LLC, appears to have committed no crime and done nothing wrong.


After the hearing, many walked out of the room shaking their heads. For some, the hearing was a chance to hear first hand the issues involved in a bankruptcy proceeding as attorneys talked about specific portions of the code as well as some of the finer nuances of the law. But for Susan McMorris of Peoria, it was frustrating.


"We still don’t know what is going to happen," she said.


Andy Kravetz can be reached at (309) 686-3283 or akravetz@pjstar.com.