MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – People whose loved ones were buried at a southwest Miami-Dade County cemetery are outraged after they said mementos placed at the gravesites were removed without notice.
"We feel like our family got robbed. My mother's gravesite got robbed," Kimberly Martinez said.
It's been nine months since Denise Rodriguez was laid to rest at Miami Memorial Park after losing a bout with cancer.
"My mom loved America. She loved American flags," Martinez said.
The Rodriguez family honored Denise Rodriguez's memory with an American flag at her gravesite, which remained there until they noticed it missing on their most recent visit.
"They told me it was behind the building, like as if it was just nothing but trash," Martinez said.
Martinez snapped photos of a stockpile of flags and other artifacts plucked right from the gravesites at the cemetery.
The sight brought Martinez and her father to tears.
"It hurts knowing that the one little symbol, now symbolizing my mother, is no longer there," Martinez said.
Local 10 News reporter Terrell Forney approached cemetery employees Monday for an explanation about the matter and saw what appeared to be workers still removing items from gravesites.
Park managers declined to go on camera, but said their rules are governed by the state and handed Forney a copy of what they said every plot purchaser receives in a signed contract.
The paper states that real flowers in approved vases are highly encouraged, but ornaments and unauthorized plantings, flower sprays, chairs, benches, etc. will be "removed without notice."
The cemetery put up a sign in Spanish of its plan, and worker said they also placed courtesy pamphlets at the grave sites weeks ago.
"A flag is not an ornament. A flag is a symbol," Julio Rodriguez said.
"We never got any notice," Martinez said.