Closed cemetery angers families, raises questions

April 11, 2011 8:56:57 PM PDT
Mount Moriah Cemetery has suddenly closed in Southwest Philadelphia and that has left people with loved ones buried there asking questions that are simply not being answered.

Wanda Grant is one of those people.

Grant comes to Mount Moriah often. It is the only way she feels close to the son she lost in 2002. On Monday, what would have been her son Rasheen's 34th birthday, she was still filled with grief, but now she was also full of outrage.

"I shouldn't have to subject myself to this," Grant said.

For the last several years, Wanda has watched as Mt. Moriah fall into disrepair. Gravestones are toppled over and trees and weeds are growing out of control. The once spectacular entrance is now crumbled. As though the idea this place was neglected wasn't hard enough, now it seems it's been totally abandoned.

"Mount Moriah Cemetery is now closed for business; no further information is available at this time."

Sometime last week, that message began greeting callers to Mount Moriah's now shuttered office.

Who left the message is a mystery, because no one really knows who is responsible for running the cemetery.

Last November, in response to complaints about its condition, the City of Philadelphia began legal proceedings to determine who was in charge, but all this time later, there's still no clear answer, and now there is no one at the office to provide any clues.

Bernadine McQueen of Parkside can't even bring herself to come anymore.

"It's supposed to be their eternal resting place and it looks like something out of a horror movie," McQueen said.

Among other relatives, her son was buried at the cemetery; he was the victim of gun violence 16 years ago. Now she says, he's a victim once again.

"I'd like whoever is in charge of that place out there to come and face the music; I just want my loved ones to know that I'm sorry this happened," McQueen said.

Thousands of people including 5,000 veterans are buried at the cemetery.

Action News is told the state agency that regulates cemeteries is aware of the situations as well as the Attorney General's office.