More than two dozen descendants of Judge John Heard and his brother, Newman Isaiah Heard want a judge to halt plans to develop on land set aside for the Heard Family Cemetery.

On Friday, Nov. 9, attorney Wright Mitchell filed the motion to intervene in a lawsuit on behalf of 28 people who claim to be the Heards’ descendants.

Local attorney Christopher Mills sued the city of Sandy Springs in August after he was denied a permit to build on the raw portion of the property, a 1-acre parcel at the end of Heards Drive.

“The descendants are seeking declaratory judgment from the court that Mills is prohibited from building a house on Cemetery property,” Mitchell said. “The descendants are also asking the court to find that legal ownership of the Cemetery is vested in the heirs of the individuals named in the original 1900 Deed from Judge Heard to his sons and brother, N.I. Heard.  Additionally, the descendants are seeking damages for trespass because Mills has erected a monument in the Cemetery to honor a person who is not a member of the Heard family.  Finally, the descendants are seeking damages and attorneys’ fees.”

Mills has declined to comment about the case.

Mills obtained the property from his in-laws, who obtained it by getting one of Heards descendants – Mary Ann Elsner – to assign her rights to the property to his in-laws in 2007.

The neighbors, who rallied to protect the cemetery in 2007, believed the property would be donated to a historic preservation organization. The property wouldn’t have been transferred out of the family at all had it not been for Fulton County accidentally selling it for back taxes to a Florida-based company. Under state law, cemeteries are tax exempt.

Read the Sandy Springs Reporter investigation into the Heard Cemetery by clicking here.

Mitchell said Mills will have 30 days to file his response.

Dan Whisenhunt

Dan Whisenhunt wrote for Reporter Newspapers from 2011 - 2014. He is the founder and editor of