Skull in broken grave in plain sight

Residents concerned about problems with Northside cemetery

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Inside a dislodged vault at Mount Olive Cemetery on the Northside is a broken casket containing a skull and bones in plain view, as seen in photos taken by Channel 4.

James Kemp called Channel 4 to complain about it, saying kids are out there all the time playing around the open graves.

"Then you got the kids out here sticking the sticks and trying to hit them," Kemp said.

He said he has not only called Channel 4, but for weeks has been calling the city, to no avail.

"I complained many times," Kemp said. "Nothing. They just sent someone out here to cut the yard."

There are problems all around the cemetery. Vaults are not only open but smashed. Grave markers are knocked over, cracked and unrecognizable.

In some cases, it seems the vaults are about ready to be washed away into the street.

According to the city, Mount Olive Cemetery along with four others -- Old City, Sunset, Memorial and Pinehurst -- are now under the Parks Department. Several years ago, the city took charge of the old neglected cemeteries and with the use of a state trust fund and city money, it is making repairs.

In this case, Channel 4 told Tera Meeks, the manager from the Parks Department who's in charge of the cemetery, what people were saying.

"They are horrified that this is the condition out there and that the city has not taken immediate action," Channel 4's Jim Piggott told Meeks.

"Well, like I said, we have taken immediate action within days of parks receiving management," Meeks said. "I myself went to all the properties and, like I said, I met with some certified people who do cemetary maintenance and restoration of headstones and vault lids for a living."

This is a new job for Meeks and the department, so they are on a learning curve but say residents should see results soon.

"Cemeteries have been with (the) Parks (Department) for about two months, and in that two-month period we have been working actively to correct some of those issues that we see," Meeks said. "And I think there will be a noticeable improvement in the coming weeks and months."

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