When Darrell Napier arrived at the Perkins Cemetery in Woodbine on Easter Sunday to visit the graves of his late family members, he got an unsettling shock.
As he approached the gravesites of his late wife (Betty), son (Adam) and mother-in-law (Sudie Baker), he noticed a change in the scenery that he said was saddening.
"The first thing I noticed when I walked through the cemetery was that a few of the footstones that used to be there were gone," Napier said. "As I got closer to the family plots, I noticed some of the things near there had been moved."
As he looked a little closer, Napier said that’s when he realized the changes might have been the work of vandals.
One definitive difference was the removal of a bench that had been placed near the area of his family’s gravesites so those visiting could do so comfortably. Napier said that bench was not only moved, but had to have been done forcibly so.
"This bench was actually concreted into the ground," he said. "It would probably take two good sized men to get that thing out of the ground.
"It’s just sad that people would go through that kind of effort to damage a place that means so much to people," he added. "It’s sad not only for my family, but all of those that are laid to rest at this cemetery."
The saddest part of the ordeal for Napier may be the fact he actually chose to go to the cemetery Sunday instead of church so that he could visit the grave of his son, who died at the age of 11 in 2007. Napier said he has had trouble with the Easter holiday since his son’s death.
"It’s just hard to be around all of the kids when I start to remember the Easters I spent with Adam," he said. "I thought by going to the cemetery, it would give me a chance to visit both graves and spend some time there thinking of them.
"It’s sad that you have to worry about the place you have chosen to put your loved ones to rest in peace," he added. "I am faced with having to worry about that now and I have had some trouble with it in the past few days."
Napier said this is the first time he has seen such damage at this particular cemetery, but added there has been some minor instances such as flower removal and things like that. He also said he knows the Perkins Cemetery has a reputation for attracting certain types of people who may be looking for "a place to party."
"It is pretty common for people to go up there and engage in drug use and, there really isn’t another way to say this, but sexual activity," he added. "It’s a shame that they don’t have any respect for the people and the families of the people up there.
"Hopefully a little awareness and some extra patrol by the Knox County Sheriff’s Department will help to curb that kind of stuff," he added.
Napier said he contacted the KCSD on Sunday and they agreed to provide some extra patrol for the area. The News Journal could not confirm that any type of investigation had been opened regarding the vandalism as of press time.