PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) - A Pascagoula cemetery has left several families feeling hurt and wanting answers. Management of The Jackson County Memorial Park on Ingalls Avenue recently changed hands. Now, relatives of those laid to rest there say they have suffered a violation of privacy.
"She liked to sit on the bench and talk to my grandfather and now, it's just gone," said Dustin Weir.
He remembers placing a bench at the foot of his grandfather's grave after he was laid to rest. That was less than a year ago, and now where the bench sat, lies only the impression in the dirt.
Weir's aunt, Jennifer Fisher, was one of the first to realize that it was gone. Her immediate thought was theft.
"And then that heartbrokenness feeling kind of set in," said Fisher.
What she found shocked her even more. It appeared that the groundskeepers had taken up not just the bench, but all the benches in the graveyard, along with statues, name plates, and family mementoes.
According to new owner, Terry Tutor, there's no harm intended. It's simply a matter of making sure the cemetery is as safe as possible. He said if someone were to get hurt on a bench or concrete statue, he would be liable.
Fisher said she understands the policy. That's not what has her upset.
"The way that they've done this is the hurtful part, because they could have put out a notice, they could have reached out to different family members," said Fisher.
The only sign she saw was a small beaten up notice that says "flowers in vases only during mowing season."
"My dad is supposed to be safe here, and that's been violated, along with so many other families. If I wanted to get in my car and come down and sit on that bench, I should be able to do that and I could do that until now," said Fisher.
But, Fisher and Weir don't want their family's items returned to their graves. In fact, after this, they won't be putting anything else in their place for fear of it being taken again.
"We just want an apology. That's really what we're pushing for today because there's not much else you can do," said Weir.
Tutor bought the cemetery this past spring through a bidding process. He said the notice sign was there before he took over as owner. He invited anyone who had items on the graves to pick them up behind the cemetery office.