HOUSTON – Tranquility and peace abound at Forest Park Lawndale in southeast Houston, but beneath the gaze of statues of angels and saints, thieves have been hard at work preying on the dead.
Johnnie Edwards regularly visits his parents’ grave site at the cemetery and came last week for Mother’s Day.
‘When we got here, we looked up and down through here for my parents because we knew they were right in here,” Edwards said.
Edwards eventually went to the cemetery office when he could not locate their grave.
“(A cemetery staff worker) is looking and she says they show that they’re buried right here,” Edwards said. “And I said, ‘Well could it be that the headstones were stolen?’ She says, ‘Well yeah, maybe.’”
Edwards says the bronze marker of the couple buried next to his parents was stolen also.
Houston police say one report of a stolen headstone at Forest Park Lawndale was made last week.
Edwards began making his report Tuesday morning and called Forest Park Lawndale for help.
“There was nothing on the police report that said anything about cemeteries,” Edwards said. “It covered everything else, and then [the cemetery worker] says, ‘Well I’m surprised because there’s been so many stolen.’”
Edwards says the cemetery told him the bronze marker and vase would cost $3,895 to replace but they would be willing to offer it to him at a cost.
Forest Park Lawndale, which is owned by Dignity Memorial, sent KHOU 11 the following emailed statement.
“Forest Park Lawndale is committed to providing all families with a peaceful environment for visitation and remembrance. We routinely evaluate the security needs of the cemetery, however, cemeteries, by their nature, are open to the public. Bronze theft is a problem at cemeteries across the country and our policy is to encourage any family impacted by theft to file a police report. We are committed to full cooperation with law enforcement on the investigation of these thefts. We value the relationships we have with our client families and encourage anyone with concerns to contact us directly.”
KHOU 11 asked what the company would be willing to do for the Edwards’ stolen marker and if the cemetery regularly reports the thefts on its grounds to the Houston Police Department.
The cemetery did not respond.
Edwards says he will replace the marker but does not understand how anyone could be so disrespectful.
“Leave these people in peace,” Edwards said. “I’d probably forgive them. But it’s just not right. It’s not right to steal anything, but from somebody’s grave?”