Grieving mother accused by cemetery of stealing figurines
PHENIX CITY, AL (WTVM) -
A woman tells News Leader Nine a Phenix City cemetery is being insensitive to the feelings of grieving families.
Melinda Nixon said she wanted to help return missing items to their rightful owners, and now she's being accused by the cemetery of stealing.
Nixon is a frequent visitor to Lakeview Memory Gardens on Highway 431. She said sometimes she ties bows around her daughter's headstone, or places small items nearby, but groundskeepers are removing them.
It's part of the cemetery's strict policy that does not allow any loose items to be left near graves.
"I can never buy my daughter a birthday present. I can never buy my daughter a Christmas present. The only thing I can do for her is buy her stuff and bring it here," said Nixon.
Nixon's daughter, Ashley Arrowsmith, was featured in a WTVM news report when she and a friend were killed in a car accident.
Arrowsmith's sister, Chelsea, said, "That's all we can do is leave her a little angel or a signed softball from the previous season. They take it up and act like it's nothing, even though it means the world to us, and maybe even to Ashley."
Families at the cemetery Friday said Lakeview's groundskeepers are taking loose items, and scattering them behind a fence. Nixon feared the items would be thrown out or lost, so she gathered everything together and advertised on Facebook that she would return the figurines and keepsakes to anyone who was looking for them.
According to Nixon, Lakeview personnel called to demand the return of the items to the space behind the fence at the rear of the property.
A cemetery manager confirmed that Phenix City Police were called Thursday for what he described as a "misunderstanding" but Lakeview had no further comment.
Other families gathered at Lakeview Friday night said they think the cemetery is overreacting and their policy goes too far.
"This is where you come to visit your loved ones and I feel like you should be able to put whatever you want within reason," said Holly Southern.
"They said nothing can be on the ground. It can only be in the vase or attached to the marker," said Beverly Ann Helms.
Helms is one of a few people who claim that not even flowers approved by the policy are safe from being confiscated.
Maggie Sanford has family in both Lakeview in Phenix City and Parkhill in Columbus.
"At Parkhill, they never take anything down. When the foam gets messed up for the flowers, they replace it. It's always nice out there, they keep it cut. If you put anything on the headstone, there's nothing taken down," said Sanford.