Homicide families clash with cemetery management

Police are called in dispute over nontraditional graveside grieving

Photos by Robin Underwood
Friends and loved ones line up outside of the cemetery office to have their turn to speak the management at the San Jacinto Valley Cemetery.

■ Robin Underwood / Reporter

The families of some of the valley’s numerous homicide victims have clashed with the management of San Jacinto Valley Cemetery over whether the families’ graveside behaviors are appropriate for the revered resting place of the area’s departed.
The social-media-driven victims group even got dinged recently by Facebook after calling for a collective meeting with cemetery officials.
Pebbles Moreno, the mother of young man violently gunned down in late 2016 but not notified by officials for an entire week, recently got a notice from Facebook informing her that she had been banned from the site for 24 hours. The ban occurred right after she created a post that invited San Jacinto Valley Cemetery visitors to meet at one at the facility offices. Her hope was to speak with management in unison with the other families regarding various accounts of what she saw as humiliating treatment of plot owners over the last few weeks. Moreno’s intention was to find answers, common ground, and understanding of a situation not one person could make sense of.

New rules announced
Recently, new rules and regulations have been announced personally by the cemetery manager to a number of plot owners visiting loved ones on the grounds. These new rules reportedly are due to some visitors exhibiting threatening demeanors that have resulted in the police being called for alleged acts violating the facilities’ rules of conduct.
Commenters on these incidents categorize the new regulations as harassment and range from intolerance of decorations and gravestones to interrupting family members in the middle of group prayers, to the amount of time allowed to place flowers by loved ones, and “insensitivity” towards visitation time.
Throughout the week, friends and relatives of loved ones lost, ranging from young and old, with differing religious, cultural and ethnic backgrounds had similar experiences dealing with recent rule changes. They claimed management only administered the rules verbally without placing any new signs around the perimeter or distributing hard copies to plot owners.

The last straw
Moreno, with tears streaming down her face, told The Valley Chronicle of her struggles dealing with the passing of her son, Daniel Ramirez, and the challenges of recently being diagnosed with cancer. The interference now of not being able to properly grieve and mourn for the loss of her child, is an added burden. On top of this, the high profile case will soon hit the courts where those accused of killing her son will be tried.
She recounted stories of cemetery management “threats” that flowers left would be thrown out on a daily basis, and verbal claims that subtle decorations, very much like other decorations seen in other cemetery settings, are now banned with no exception. Moreno’s decorations on her son’s grave included small, colorful windmills stuck in the ground near the plot, a couple of small solar lights stuck in the ground, and holiday-themed decorations at the appropriate season, just as she has done frequently since 2016.
Chairs are also now banned from the gravesite unless provided by the cemetery during burials. Personal chairs brought when spending time with buried loved ones have been restricted, allowed only on the grave itself and can not extend one inch outside that area.

How we deal with loss
When speaking of her grieving process that helped her mourn her son, Moreno says, “You know, I would come here every day and sit with my son for hours. I would decorate his gravesite with flowers and solar lights surrounding the plot because I didn’t want to leave my son out here in complete darkness. It was a chance for me to grieve and recover from this tragic situation, not… unlike others who have lost loved ones here too. This is how we deal with our loss, we do what we can in a situation you can’t do anything about. I would look at his gravesite and be proud and say, at least my son’s burial looks nice and shows he’s still thought of every day.”
Moreno has also had to deal with police being called because of balloons she brought for visitors who came on that day, letting them go in memory of their loved ones. She was told by management that it was not appropriate and made the cemetery look like a circus. They reportedly wanted the area to look like the old cemetery site, with many of the headstones dating back to the 1800s.

Wanted to share experience
When Moreno initially created her post that led to her Facebook ban, she intended to share her experience and bring others the opportunity of meeting at the office, as she knew others would need answers, much like herself. However, but states she wasn’t expecting such a large large turnout.
As she entered the cemetery, following behind her was a trail of cars at least 25 in number, which brought her great joy, even when nothing was solved. She realized there were others who were just as mortified, just as helpless, and just as in need of answers who would now have their chance to be heard, for once, without being turned away.
At 2 p.m. on Aug. 14, plot owners at the San Jacinto Valley Cemetery filled the cemetery office space till it reached maximum capacity. Some not able to fit inside had to wait in the outer area of the office. Management had each person sign in, setting a time limit for them to speak at three minutes each.

Pebbles Moreno stands outside the cemetery office wearing a shirt with her son’s picture on it.

All had same complaints
The same accusations and claims were being echoed by all visitors, very apparent of the pain they shared, all commenting on how the new rules were blocking their ability to grieve and adding to their list of struggles that they must now manage. One woman said she withstood going to her daughter’s trial and saw the most brutal parts of her death cast on the courtroom walls by the court’s. Yet the pain she experienced at the cemetery, when mourning the loss of her daughter, was worse.
Cemetery office staff said little during the meeting, oftentimes not allowing speakers to finish, cutting their time short by interrupting them. “Your time is up,” they would say in a loud tone. The only comment made by management was a repeated line stating, “I cannot speak about these issues currently at this time.”
When The Valley Chronicle spoke with cemetery management after the meeting, they said their position was contained within a press release, which stated the following:

The cemetery’s statement
“On July 26, 2018 there was an open public Special Meeting where the board was given the information from the July 20, 2018 working group meeting. The San Jacinto Valley Cemetery District Board of Trustees voted on and set a new flower and decoration policy and also put into place a cemetery closing time for the grounds. It was also approved at this meeting that the cemetery would move forward with the security cameras for the new section that they had been working on for a couple of months,” according to the statement.
“Families will be able to have their fresh or artificial flowers on the grave 24 hours a day, 7 days a week as long as they are in one of the three approved containers,” it continued.
“As a courtesy to the families the cemetery staff has been picking up any items that are not in an approved container, marking them with the families name and bringing them into one of our buildings for family pick up. The staff has also been placing calls to families if we have a good phone number to inform them their items had been picked up and to please contact the office for pick up and explanation as to why,” the statement read.

Nothing posted on
the web
When searching for rules and regulations posted on the cemetery website, no rules regarding decorations could be found, nor were the chair limitations, confiscation of decorative displays, camera installations, or repercussions for violations mentioned – such as the numerous times police have been called for questionable reasons.
To keep up with this and other similar stories, search Facebook for the group titled, Homicide Families Seeking Justice.

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