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Dumped headstones at Benton Harbor cemetery frustrate neighbors

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BENTON HARBOR, Mich. -- Neighbors are wondering why tombstones were found thrown into a heap of trash and debris at the Crystal Springs Cemetery.

“It just kinda broke my heart that that’s how they were treated,” Beth Litke said. 

Litke found the headstones while visiting a relative’s grave and took pictures to post to social media while on the hunt for answers.  

Some markers that dated back to the early 1900s and others that belonged to local World War II heroes, were found lying among pop cans, and rusty scraps at the cemetery which is owned by the City of Benton Harbor.

Representative with Benton Harbor Historical Preservation Society Michael Hoyh was outraged at the discovery. 

“That is totally disrespectful. You are supposed to honor the dead. You’re supposed to respect the dead,” Hoyh said.

But, cemetery management says the stones were not purposely removed from actual graves. Officials say the scrap pile was there when Bert Edquist took over cemetery operations in 2013.

“We assumed that the markers out there were scrap just like any other monument shop would have, any other cemetery would have. Where the markers that weren’t needed were put in a pile,” Edquist said. 

Edquist, whose company was brought in to improve the cemetery conditions says that there are different reasons why the grave stones would be scrapped, like if they were damaged, replaced, or unpaid for.

“I don’t have a clue of how we could contact a family. As far as a marker out there, you just know who they you are, that doesn’t mean there’s an address or anything else to go with it. They could both be deceased, we don’t have a clue,” Edquist said in response to the question of whether all of the markers were accounted for and if loved ones were notified. 

ABC57 reached out to Benton Harbor City officials regarding the situation and has not yet received a response.

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