Jul 22, 2014 1:12 AM by Matthew Schwartz
Tucson - Nanette Perez visits her son's grave at Evergreen Cemetery three times a day, keeping up the memorial she arranged. Alexios Escobar was born with a congenital heart defect; he had seven surgeries, before dying in Nanette's arms in December.
"He loved going shopping, he loved getting the ads for Mom. He was just my little shadow," Ms. Perez told the News 4 Tucson Investigators. "He was a smart, old soul. He loved cooking, and he loved being with Mom."
Alexious was only 12 years-old.
Nanette says in the seven months since her son died, his grave has been desecrated at least seven times. Flowers and other items have been stolen; the lights Nanette painstakingly planted have been knocked over.
She says, "Just like it's the most painful thing, it's the most pitiful thing, to have no respect for anybody's grave. Especially a little boy's. I have his picture there purposely, so they can have a little conscience and know it's a little boy's grave."
Evergreen Cemetery Bill Addison told us, "I do feel very sorry for her. " We asked him, "Is there anything you can do to stop the vandalism?" He replied, "Stop the vandalism? Probably not. What we've tried to do is we have a security company that we've hired that comes through randomly at night."
Addison says Tucson Police cars also come thru daily. Evergreen is one of Tucson's largest cemeteries. There are between 65,000-70,000 gravesites here. Addison says vandalism is a problem at many cemeteries and Evergreen is easy to get to; it's next to busy roads: Oracle and Fort Lowell.
The News 4 Tucson Investigators asked Addison, "Why not have locked gates here at night? " He replied "Part of the reason [we don't have] locked gates is when we put in the funeral home we started to have to have the gates open so that the company could come in to drop somebody off when they needed to. But what we discovered with that is once we did away with having the chains across the entrances, our vandalism and theft rate dropped."
Nanette Perez has another problem with the cemetery: Her gravesite decorations are against its rules. Nanette's surround the gravesite and lights must be inside vases, not in the ground. With no more than three vases allowed.
Addison says, "The rules are so we can cut the grass, keep it clean. I can't change everything we do for one or two graves. Because as soon as you do that you're going to have 70,000 families that are going to want to be able to put whatever they want in whatever form they want."
Perez told us, "I'm breaking a rule, but I'm just expressing my love for my son. Just let me be, let me be in peace with my son. Don't tell me how I need to find some other way to grieve."
There is no headstone at the gravesite, because Nanette says she hasn't been able to afford one. Cemetery President Addison says he'll continue to have maintenance workers remove the items from the gravesite if Nanette continues to break the rules, and that she's free to take them home.
Nanette says at this point she has no plans to change anything, but she would at least be grateful if the vandalism of her son's gravesite ended.
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