RICHMOND, Va. -- A viewer reached out to the CBS 6 Problem Solvers, concerned after finding a mausoleum broken into and open caskets inside of it at Richmond's Evergreen Cemetery.
The cemetery is the final resting spot for many prominent African-Americans including Maggie Walker.
“It looked like Hollywood Cemetery from what I’ve read, it was rolling grass, you see hills, trees,” John Shuck, who heads up volunteer efforts to clean up the cemetery, said.
Evergreen Cemetery was created in 1891 as a place for African-Americans in Richmond to be buried. “Because they couldn’t be buried in the white cemeteries like Hollywood or Oakwood,” Shuck said.
Yet over the years, it fell into disrepair, with graves not being maintained.
“We have an issue with prostitution out there,” Shuck said.
One particular plot that has received a lot of attention since the 1960s is the Braxton family mausoleum.
“When I first started working there you would see remains lying around,” Shuck said.
The mausoleum is located just steps from Maggie Walker’s grave-site, and it’s not easy to get to.
When CBS 6 reporter Melissa Hipolit visited the site, she found a huge hole in the mausoleum and caskets inside that had been opened.
“When I first came here the hole was only half a cinder block in size…a lot of that has been done in the past 4 or 5 years,” Shuck said.
He said vandals have repeatedly broken in the family crypt despite a metal door that used to be on the mausoleum, chains that were put up in the past, and a new cinder block wall.
Hipolit found what appears to be a wig on the floor of the crypt.
“Maybe they were originally looking for valuables in the coffins, satanic rituals,” Shuck said about the vandals past and present.
Shuck said ownership of the cemetery changed hands over the years, but a company called UK Corporation now owns it.
“The historic part of the cemetery they don’t have the staff or finances to maintain it, the cemetery is 60 acres in size,” Shuck said.
Evergreen is exempt from a city law enacted in 1919 that requires cemeteries to provide perpetual care in the price of a burial plot.
Therefore, it’s up to the families to maintain the plots.