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Family finds daughter's headstone defaced, vandalism in cemetery

MISHAWAKA, Ind. -- It's a place people go to grieve, a place that is supposed to peaceful, and a place of final rest. But for some families who have loved ones buried in the Fairview Cemetery in Mishawaka, it isn't that at all.

"My husband came out here on her fifth anniversary, and he came across her headstone being vandalized. The expression on his face when he came home... he couldn't look me in the eye," says Jenny Finneran. 

Her daughter, Melinda, is buried in Fairview Cemetery. 

Melinda's grave stands out from a sea of gray and black tombstones: a birthday balloon fling in the area, and Fourth of July decor adorning it. 

And now, it bears scratches and gouges covering her portrait.

Finneran calls it disgusting.

The damage is worth more than two thousand dollars. The family now has to completely replace the tombstone. 

"It's bad enough to have to bury a daughter," says Finneran. "I don't understand who could do something like this. I don't understand."

Melinda's grave wasn't the only one vandalized, but it's the only one with the damage still visible 

Two other graves, of young women, were also disturbed.

"It was targeted toward women," explains Finneran. 

Cemetery general manager Stevie Nelson Sr. agrees.

"It seems like it. I was only with the girls' pictures," he says. 

Vandalism and theft isn't uncommon on cemetery grounds. 

Nelson too has suffered from people disturbing his family members' places of rest.

"Someone had stolen the stuff off of my dad's," he recalls. 

He says he's just at a loss.

"These are my people," Nelson explains. "I'm in charge of them. You steal from them, you steal from me."

And he wishes he could do something to help make it stop.

"There's no real protection for a cemetery.  I mean, if you want to put up a fence or something...but if they want to come in and vandalize, they're going to come in and vandalize," Nelson add. 

For now, it's a mother's plea: to stop and let her family, and others, grieve in peace.

"Why touch anyone's headstone. This is supposed to be a sanctuary," she says. "You shouldn't do stuff like that."

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