OZARK, Ala. (WDHN) — Jessica Reyes was 19 years old when she was faced with the hardest situation a parent could go through, losing her newborn baby 12 hours after he was born. Now she’s facing another struggle.
“Brandon was 17 weeks early, it was right around September 11th, me and his dad were security forces so we had to wear a whole bunch of gear our rug belt, tote our A bags around, wear all of our caviler, it just put me into early labor and the part of Montana that I was in, there NICU wasn’t able to handle somebody that early, so he lived 12 hours,” Reyes said.
Brandon was buried at Woodlawn Memory Gardens in Ozark 19 years ago, and according to Reyes, she has dealt with maintenance, theft, and upkeep issues for years. However, Brandon’s Funeral contract says that the cemetery is in charge of Perpetual care.
“They are supposed to be taking care of everything, they are supposed to have money in an account to wear that pays for the lawn Maintenace, the grass maintenance, cleaning up the trash, keeping the potholes, the roads stuff like that,” Reyes explained.
Reyes and other community members have complained to the city about the cemetery upkeep many times. Mayor Bunting’s late wife was also laid to rest here, and he is aware of the issues.
“My experience hasn’t been…it’s been okay…We had an unfortunate experience when we came here because as they were putting the casket on top of the cemetery for the final prayer, the grave caved in, so, fortunately, my pallbearers were able to catch and get it out, but we were not able to finish the interment for another week or so waiting for the rain to stop so that they could stabilize the grave,” said, Bob Bunting, Ozark mayor.
“I know that there’s lots of families that have complained to me, the unfortunate thing is that we’ve checked into, we have not been able to find any state regulatory agency that oversees cemeteries.”
Bunting says they have looked into writing an ordinance that requires privately owned cemeteries to maintain them better. However, according to Bunting the only city that has such a thing in place is Montgomery.
“We don’t want any drama or anything like that, we just want to be able to get it fixed. We want to be able to come out here and not have the weeds not have the ants not have tree branches not have stuff stolen we want to come out here and just find it the way it’s supposed to be and the way we left it,” Reyes said.
We attempted to reach out to the office at Woodlawn Memory Gardens and the owner, Don Glenn but we were unable to get a hold of them. Reyes has filed a police report with the Ozark city police department and plans to continue to do so as long as items placed on her son’s gravesite continues being messed with and items continue to be stolen and broken.