Illegal Dumpsite on Grounds of Cemetery of Former Slaves - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

11/14/06-Smith County

Illegal Dumpsite on Grounds of Cemetery of Former Slaves

An appaling case of illegal dumping is found as someone has been trashing an East Texas cemetery.     There are tons and tons of trash next to the graves of former slaves, and it may not be long before someone's arrested.

The illegal dumpsite was found next to the private Pinkston Cemetery, that cemetery is associated with the New Mountain CME Church along Highway 271 south of Gladewater.

"All of these are former slaves who gave a lot to the community," says Marilyn Kelley, who walks though the cemetery with fond memories among the graves of generations.  Thse graves date back to the 1870s, just like the church yards away.

"We can't forget where we came from and I think a lot of us do forget where we came from," she says.

There's just one way into this private plot, down a now-worn dirt path, is a mess.

"They passed right by [the cemetery,] passed right by it, with no respect," she says of the piles of junk feet high -- some of it here for some time.  Marilyn says she's tried to clean all she can, now calling in Smith County Environmental Crimes Investigator Danny Brasher.

"I've come across oil in cans -- used motor oil -- there's antifreeze here," he says. 

As he has at countless dump sites, Brasher combs through for evidence.  On a hand sweeper, he finds a clue.

"I have pulled a name with an address out of the dumpsite.  I'm going to be working on getting more names to verify this name in the dumpsite."

He says that's all he needs to start the investigation, one that could lead to someone being sent to jail on a felony charge. 

That's what Marilyn wants.

"They should be made an example of.  These are things we don't do.  You just don't go past a cemetery [to dump trash] and you don't go into a cemetery. That's disrespect all the way around," she says.

Brasher agrees, "That's almost desecration -- that you would not care any more about the deceased that you would have a dump ground next to it."

Some of these graves Marilyn tends to today have been here for more than a hundred years. The leaves may fall, brush grows, but she says this burial ground will be abused no more.

"My heart aches and my heart hurts, because it means no one has respect for the dead.  No one has respect for these people whatsoever and that's horrible," Marilyn says.

The county has called a clean-up crew in to haul away the items, and the price tag will be paid by the illegal dumper, if an arrest is made.  Brasher says similar size dumps have cost upwards of $30,000 to clear.

Reported by Morgan Palmer.

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