The final resting place for a retired sergeant may be determined by a judge as two women battle over which was his wife at the time of his death.

John E. "Sarge" Burrell died in July. His body has been stored at Wiseman Mortuary in Fayetteville since then, while the women fight over whether to bury him in a veterans cemetery in Spring Lake or in Atlanta.

Valerie Burrell of Atlanta married John Burrell in 1989, said Holt, her lawyer.

Hazelene Burrell of Fayetteville married John Burrell in 1954 and had three children with him. She disputes records that indicate they may have been divorced in 1969.

A judge has been asked by the funeral home to decide which woman gets the body. Holt said the case may not be decided until late December.

"Currently the body of the decedent is being stored at Petitioner's mortuary and will become a health hazard if not buried in the very near future," said Wiseman's Aug. 29 petition.

Documents trace John Burrell's marital history but don't solve the problem.

Hazelene Burrell said she married him in 1954 in Dillon, S.C., and they never were divorced.

Her lawsuit said "she suspected and became aware that John E. Burrell ... was consorting with and was involved with other women, (but) Sarge Burrell continued to represent himself to Hazelene Burrell as being her husband."

She denies that she signed divorce papers filed in 1969 in Kansas City, Mo., or that she even received them.

Her lawsuit says John Burrell pretended he was divorced when he married Valerie Burrell, but Holt said they were properly married after Burrell was legally divorced.

Funeral director Tryphina Wiseman said there have been similar cases in the past, but usually one spouse gives in.