World War II vet's family complains grave is used as dumping ground

Family says cemetery has stored extra dirt on top of vet's grave and has refused to move it

By Joel Eisenbaum - Investigative Reporter

HITCHCOCK, Texas - A Galveston County family believes that hundreds of pounds of dirt piled on top of their loved one's grave is an affront to the veteran who passed away in 1978.

"That's my Grandpa under there. He served this country," Dorothy LaKey said.

George Long Sr. served during World War II and was buried at Mainland Memorial, a private cemetery, in Hitchcock.

For the last year, LaKey maintains the cemetery has stored extra dirt on top of Long's grave and has refused to remove it, even after repeated phone calls.

"It's just disrespectful, you can't even see his headstone," LaKey said.

The grave site appears to be covered in a mound of dirt and weeds, only the top edge of the headstone was visible when Local 2 Investigates visited the cemetery.

Other headstones appeared to be broken, and similar mounds of dirt covered other grave sites.

Russell Laroe, a former police officer, owns the ten acre facility as well as an attached crematorium.

In 2011, the Texas Funeral Commission, which regulates crematory operations, cited the business for Health and Safety Code Violations, and an unspecified violation of ethical conduct.

Local 2 Investigates has requested further documentation regarding the violations through an open records request, not yet fulfilled.

Local 2 Investigates spoke with Laroe on Tuesday. He said his tractor had been stolen which has slowed progress in trying to rehabilitate the property and remove the excess dirt mounds, which are used to fill-in fresh graves.

Laroe did agree to clear the mound on Long's grave site within two weeks.

"If the weather holds out, I don't see a problem with that," Laroe said.

Local 2 Investigates will follow up to make sure the issue has been resolved.

In an odd twist of bureaucracy, cemeteries are typically regulated by The Texas Department of Banking. The following information is from the state's website: 

Cemeteries - The Banking Department regulates only perpetual care cemeteries. Cemeteries that are owned by municipalities, cities, churches, and other non-profit organizations are generally not supervised by the Banking Department. These cemeteries are under the jurisdiction of the State Health Department but only if the cemetery becomes a health hazard. The Texas Cemetery Association also has its own complaint review committee. The address of the committee is:

Texas Cemetery Association
P. O. Box 9450
Fort Worth, Texas 76147-245

The Texas Cemetery Association can be reached at (817) 336-0584.

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