Routine 'spring cleaning' at local cemetery leaves grave markers -

Routine 'spring cleaning' at local cemetery leaves grave markers, mementos in dumpster

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Mementos left on a grave at Mueller Hill Cemetery. (Credit: KMOV) Mementos left on a grave at Mueller Hill Cemetery. (Credit: KMOV)

What was supposed to be a routine "spring cleaning" at a small local cemetery in Perry County is causing a headache for some loved ones of those buried there.

Mueller Hill Cemetery in Pinckneyville, Illinois, about 70 miles southeast of St. Louis, is at the center of the controversy.

Last Saturday, a lawn service crew was supposed to remove some items, like old flowers, to get the cemetery ready for the upcoming mowing season. However, families that had left small mementos on their loved ones' graves found those items in the trash.

"They did more than that," Karen Heape, who has family buried at the cemetery, said. "They took grave markers, they even unscrewed a tombstone, unscrewed vases off the tombstone, took flowers off the ground, out of vases... and did what with it? Thew them in the dumpster."

Heape also said she found crosses and American flags in the trash.

Like Heape, Delbert Bauersachs also has family buried at Mueller Hill Cemetery -- his wife and generations of family members.

"They took flowers out of vases, hanging over stones, anything they could pick up and haul off," Bauersachs said.

Kevin Hicks, a board member for Mueller Hill Cemetery, said he does not believe there was any disrespect intended.

"It wasn't [intended disrespect] and it wasn't vandalism, it was just some kids that didn't know what they were doing and should have had supervision from the owner [of the company] and they didn't," Hicks said.

News 4 contacted the head of the lawn service company that cleared out the cemetery. He said he understands there was a mistake, and that there were young people working at the cemetery who discarded items that they shouldn't have.

"We are trying to fix everything we can," he said. "We are trying to make the situation right."

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