Conditions at Woodlawn Memorial Cemetery in Compton spark outrage

COMPTON, Calif. (KABC) -- Family members of loved ones buried at Woodlawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Compton say the grounds appear to have been abandoned.

They can't visit their loved ones because they say the gates have been locked for months.

"There is a great concern among residents and former residents that have family here on how deplorable its looking now because as a child this was a pristine looking cemetery," said David Pinedo.

Pinedo's grandparents are buried at Woodlawn. He and others with family members interred at the Compton cemetery say they can't get any answers from Woodlawn operators because the listed phone number is out of service. Sarisha Roby is worried about the buried remains of her aunt and cousin.

"It looks like nobody's been there. We don't know what's going on," she said. "We can't get in contact with anybody. We're totally clueless."

Legal action is now underway against Woodlawn and cemetery manager Ruben Suarez. In April, the Attorney General's Office filed an amended accusation with the Department of Consumer Affairs after the State Cemetery and Funeral Bureau reportedly gave Suarez "repeated warnings and requests to bring the cemetery grounds into good order."

The document sites bureau investigators found "the grass was brown, much of the cemetery covered in weeds, cemetery markers unreadable due to overgrowth and dirt, and water spigots inoperable."

But perhaps most disturbing, the filing notes Woodlawn was "ordered to stop dis-internments for relocation and leaving residual human remains on the surface of previous locations."

The Bureau's investigations go back as far as 2013.

"They need to do something because our loved ones they are people, we pay money for our family to be there to rest in peace, and we don't know what's going on," says Roby.

According to the attorney general's filing, Suarez's cemetery manager license expired in 2017.

Eyewitness News spoke to Suarez. He said he's had difficulty maintaining the property, that some water pipes have been stolen and that the water has been shut off to the grounds. Suarez says he plans to turn the cemetery over to a non-profit that can take better care of it.

Meantime, family members of loved ones buried at Woodlawn are urged to file their complaints with the Cemetery and Funeral Bureau by calling 1-800-952-5210.
Copyright © 2021 KABC-TV. All Rights Reserved.