Robbery victim says city cemetery dangerous

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 21, 2002

City sexton Venable Moore speaks Thursday about problems at Cedar Hill Cemetery after hours. (The Vicksburg Post/C. Todd Sherman)

[06/21/02]A Vicksburg woman robbed at gunpoint at Cedar Hill Cemetery this week said Vicksburg officials are not responding to dangerous conditions confronting people visiting the city’s largest burial ground.

Marie Woodrick, 51, said it was Tuesday afternoon and she was putting fresh flowers on the grave of her daughter when two men with a gun approached her and took money from her purse in her car.

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No arrest has been made.

Woodrick said she rarely sees police in the 200-acre cemetery at Sky Farm Avenue and Lovers Lane and feels the city department could patrol more.

“I’m afraid I’ll get shot in the crossfire of a drug deal going down,” Woodrick said.

Vicksburg Police Deputy Chief Richard O’Bannon said no decision had been made on whether patrols will be increased.

He also cautioned visitors not to go to the cemetery alone, to report any suspicious activity and not to drive in the cemetery after dusk.

He said people should use the same caution in the cemetery they would in any isolated area.

“People should try not to put themselves in positions where they could become a victim,” O’Bannon said.

Posted hours say gates surrounding the cemetery open at 7 a.m. and are closed at dusk.

Thirteen-year sexton Venable Moore said he finds beer cans in the cemetery often and suspects people are inside after the gates are locked. Moore said no one is at the cemetery to prevent anyone coming inside after the caretakers leave each day.

“They can do what they want from 3:30 to eight,” Moore said. “There isn’t anyone in here to stop them.”

Woodrick, a 51-year-old emergency room nurse, said she has visited the cemetery twice each week since her daughter died two years ago and has often felt in danger there.

She said flowers and other ornaments have been stolen from the grave and she has seen drug sales as they took place.

“I saw them doing it,” Woodrick said. “I just looked down because I was scared I was going to be shot.”

She said she believes she has seen her assailants before.

“The car (the robbers drove) that robbed me has been in there all the time,” Woodrick said.

A woman who lives near the cemetery said she sees people going through the cemetery throughout the night and she believes the Vicksburg Police Department needs to patrol more often.

“Police used to patrol a lot,” said the woman who feared being identified. “But they don’t patrol there like they used to.”