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WINDGAP, Pa. (KDKA) — Under Monday’s blue sky, with fluffy clouds drifting by, and the sun shining, the Hollywood Memorial Park Cemetery, above Windgap, was a quiet place of peace, a place of perpetual rest.
“I saw online they were bulldozing graves, and I was upset,” says Ruth McGrath. “I have many family members here, my father, my sister, my brother, grandparents, great-grandparents, very many relatives. I came looking for my relatives and some are missing, some aren’t.”
McGrath isn’t alone.
Quite a few family members have visited the cemetery looking for their family member’s final resting place. Some were successful, others went away wanting answers. Brandon Chaney lives next to the cemetery and says many graves are missing.
“They have been disrupted. He drove over the graves, leaving tracks,” says Chaney.
Chaney points to the items left by families at grave sites, crushed into the bulldozer tracks, including a number of American flags. In one case, a baby’s grave marker has bulldozer track marks on both sides of the still standing stone.
Owner Domenic Seaman told Pittsburgh City Councilwoman Theresa Kail-Smith on Sunday that the bulldozing was part of cleaning up the property and no graves were disturbed. Kail-Smith wants family members to reach out to the city.
“Whatever your concern might be, if it is a legality issue, please contact the police,” she said.
Kail-Smith says there is also the issue of pathways being cleared in the woods, and in some cases, off cemetery property. Chaney says in one case the bulldozing came onto his property.
“If he doesn’t have the permits or the city’s permission, he shouldn’t be creating roads,” said Chaney.
A Pittsburgh permit and building inspector walked the property today and the councilwoman says the inspector is trying to determine, “What we need to do in terms of that, and we could issue a cease and desist order if that’s the case.”
In the middle of the cemetery, a 100-by-100 foot area has been surveyed and marked for construction of a cell phone tower. Seaman told the councilwoman there is going to be a hearing on the plan this week.
Kail-Smith went to the zoning administrator Monday and was told, “That he or his staff have not reviewed anything. There was nothing submitted. They will continue to look. No public hearing is scheduled, no application scheduled, there was no pre-planning, nothing to warrant that kind of construction.”
In addition to the reviews being done by the city, Pittsburgh Police are conducting an investigation and involving the state as well.
There are some on social media who have defended Seaman, saying he’s doing to good job of upkeep at the cemetery. KDKA’s efforts to reach Seaman for comment on Monday went unanswered.