WAYNE COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- As Memorial Day approaches, many families are preparing to decorate their loved ones’ graves with flowers. But in Wayne County, W.Va., one family will be cleaning up instead of decorating.
Brumfield Ridge in Lavalette is a resting place for four members of Tim Crabtree’s family: his mother, father, sister and brother. At first glance, though, one might not know there are graves on the site at all.
“Now it's tore up so much, it don't even look like graveyards, it don't look like a gravesite,” Crabtree, who is a pastor at Spirit of Faith Church in Kenova, said.
The cemetery is torn up from four-wheelers, littered with beer cans and bullet shells, and even has burnt twigs and branches – leftovers from a bonfire.
“They built it right on the side of the grave, built it right on the grave, just about,” Crabtree said.
Greg Farley, the Wayne County Sheriff, said his department is aware of the problem. It’s been an issue since the 1980s or 1990s, back when Farley was a state trooper.
"It's just hopeless,” Farley said. “It's not only there but it's Perry Ridge, Martin Ridge. There's just too many ridge lines."
Farley said it’s difficult to travel the ridges in a police cruiser, and his department doesn’t have all-terrain vehicles. That makes it hard to track down vandals or people who are riding four-wheelers in the cemetery.
“When they cut down a 60-degree incline and go down a pipeline and get away, there's no way I can chase them," he said.
Crabtree said he has confronted people on four-wheelers on that plot of land before, and they tell him it’s not them -- and that they understand where he’s coming from.
“They said, ‘I understand how mad you are.’ They say, ‘If it was my family and I caught somebody, I'd put them away for it, you know,” Crabtree said.
Farley said he hates that people are “terrorizing” the cemetery but said it’s an issue in other cemeteries as well. His deputies patrol the area when they can, but he said it is difficult to do anything, even with an ATV.
“What do you do if you're one police officer on an ATV and 11 four-wheelers go in 11 different directions?” Farley said. “It just makes it almost impossible to do anything.”
He added, “I wish there was a better answer, but I don't have it. We just do what we can."
With Memorial Day just days away, Crabtree says they’ll try to clean up the graves.
"We'll mow, we'll put out flowers and we'll hope next year's better,” he said.
The flowers Crabtree has put on the graves in the past are artificial. He said anything he could try to grow on the site would be destroyed, just like the fence he put up around the graves a few years ago. The fence posts were ripped out of their cement by four-wheelers.
“I’d just like to see them respect other people, like we respect what they have,” he said.