17th anniversary of death marred by cemetery plot destruction

Published 10:00 am Saturday, March 18, 2023

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A Chambers County family’s worst nightmare came true when they discovered their loved one’s cemetery plot at Hillcrest cemetery in Lanett was destroyed. 

“You see and hear about it happening but you never think it could happen to you,” said Kristen Coggin Meadows.

Two days before the 17th anniversary of his death, Meadows and her family discovered her father’s memorial bench was shattered. 

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“It’s just very hurtful to see someone destroy someone else’s property, especially a loved one that they’ve lost,” Meadows said.

A family friend had visited the cemetery the week before and found nothing amiss. However, by Wednesday, the marble bench was in pieces. 

According to Meadows, no other plots were disturbed when she and her mother came out to see the grave site. 

“When we got out there, we looked around to make sure nothing else was damaged,” Meadows said. “And I know a lot of people that personally had family out there. So that’s when I made my post just making them aware they might need to go check their family’s resting place.”

Meadows’ mother filed a police report with the Lanett police department. Without a suspect, they were told there was not much that they could do. 

Sgt. Kody Kent at Lanett Police Department said the case is still under investigation and patrol cars are being increased in the area for any suspicious activity.

Meadows and her mother also spoke to the city, wondering if the bench could have been damaged during a lawn service. Head of Cemetery Grounds Bo Lauderdale confirmed that the grounds crew had not been out to mow the grass for two weeks prior. 

According to Lauderdale, no other damage was found. He visited the cemetery after receiving a call from Meadows but the family had already taken the bench away. 

On Sunday morning, a strong thunderstorm moved through the area, pulling down power lines and knocking down tree limbs in the park near the Lanett mill site. However, Meadows feels certain that the damage to the bench was man made.

“Because of the way that it was positioned and broken, somebody had to deliberately destroy that,” Meadows said. “It’s been out there 17 years, and nothing has ever happened.”

Chambers County resident Kelly “Mike” Coggin passed away exactly 17 years ago on Friday. Meadows said there has never been any other issues that she knows of at Hillcrest cemetery in that time.

“That made it even more emotional with it being two days prior,” Meadows said. “Grief has no time limit, and little things like that makes the anniversary date even more tough.”

The family is offering a reward to anyone with information about the incident. Meadows is also asking the community to take her advice and check on their loved one’s resting places. 

“People just need to make sure they check on their families burial sites just to make sure you know,” she said.