First man to bring concerns forward about a Chattanooga company finally sees closure
Once an embattled business shut down for good and handed over it's contracts to a third party company, unsatisfied customers could either request their services to be finished or get a refund. Caleb Dean got part of his $2,000 payment back and now he finally has a headstone on his brother's grave.
"To put an end to a long grueling process, it's bittersweet," said Dean.
In February, Dean reached out to News Channel 9, skeptical about a monument company that he said had been lacking in communication. According to Dean, his family did business with Wichman Monuments in December 2017, months after his brother died. At the time, the company had been around for 72 years, had a A+ Better Business Bureau rating, and positive reviews on several sites.
"When you use a company that's been in business for as long as they have, you go by the track record," said Dean.
That record was ruined when Dean never heard from them again. Instead, he heard horror stories from dozens of other families from all over the region who said they were going through the same thing.
"It was eye opening," Dean described. "It was a shock. I never expected anything like this to happen."
Five months later, a grand jury gives the company's owner, Trent Wichman, a record of him own; an indictment with seven felony charges, all for theft of property. Caleb Dean is listed as one of the plaintiffs.
Jim Holcomb with Chattanooga monuments picked up more than 100 of Wichman's unfulfilled contracts.
"My grandson, who does most of the hard work, even though he just got married two months ago, has been working until 9 o clock at night, 7 days a week in most cases," he said.
Holcomb didn't work on Dean's monument because the family opted for a refund. Dean says they only received about 85% of their money back.
"The financial aspect of it, that doesn't mean anything," he said. "It's the emotional distress, the hurt. Their absence on top of that being there, that's what makes it rough."
Dean did eventually buy his brother's stone, hoping the slate of his pain would be wiped clean.
"My brothers headstone was installed June 26th," Dean said. "Funny thing is, that's my birthday."
A birthday now shared with an event bittersweet to the Dean family. But at least now, there's some closure.
According to court records, the next court date for Trent Wichman is September 27.
"I forgive him, I have to," said Dean, in regards to Wichman. "I pray for him."