When Rosemary Milazzo's daughters went to visit Oak Grove Memorial Gardens in Irving, Texas, to leave flowers over the weekend, they discovered the headstone for their mother and father was gone.
Milazzo was stabbed to death in her home in December 2014. Her friend of several years, Eileen North, confessed to being in the home at the time of the murder, after which police found Milazzo’s drugs missing, reports Star-Telegram.
North's trial is set for next month, and the Oak Grove Memorial Gardens had been serving as a refuge for Milazzo’s family.
“They wanted to visit, and this is what they came to," Kathleen Wood, Milazzo's sister, told WFMY News. "You just don't take the headstone away ... it's desecration."
Wood said the cemetery removed the headstone after not receiving a payment, which she didn't know about until after it had been removed. She added there was confusion concerning the amount that needed to be paid, estimating about $2,850, but said that money wasn’t the real issue in the case. She blames the cemetery for poor communication.
“Nobody has heard from them,” Wood said. “I know they never tried to contact me.”
Oak Grove refused WFMY News’ request for a video interview, but spokesman Ron Alexander took issue with Wood’s account during a phone interview.
“We tried to reach members of the family for months, through mail and by calling,” he said. Alexander added that the cemetery removes headstones for non-payment every couple of months.
Family members claim the cemetery had assured them that the headstone would be returned by now. Oak Grove, however, indicated that it won’t be returned until later in the week, even if they don’t receive the payment in full.
Oak Grove is a member of the Texas Cemeteries Association, which reportedly aims “to elevate the ethical standards of the industry, and to foster a greater respect for the industry by honest and sincere dealing,” though Milazzo's family doesn’t feel that they are being treated as such.
"We'll get through it," Wood said. "It's just another thing for us to get through."