JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A local family is turning to the News4JAX I-TEAM after their loved one’s gravesite has been vandalized nearly a dozen times over the past seven years.
Lauren Holthouse says vandals are responsible for graffiti, damaging crosses and other items, and pouring alcohol on her husband’s gravesite at the Hardage-Giddens Greenlawn Cemetery on Beach Boulevard.
The family of Shawn Spanopolous says the 27-year-old died unexpectedly in a motorcycle accident in 2015. And ever since they buried him, the family says, each year around the date of his death in September, his gravesite is vandalized. His widow says she’s filed police reports, asked for increased security at the cemetery and even offered to put up a camera to catch the vandals in the act. But Holthouse says that the funeral home refused and that she and her son just want it to stop.
“When I’m at home, I’m always wondering if someone is here messing with his grave,” said 10-year-old Wes Spanopolous, Shawn Spanopolous’ son. “I want to know who is doing it.”
Wes Spanopolous still doesn’t have peace with his father’s death, which occurred more than seven years ago in Argyle Forest. Holthouse says the bench she purchased for Shawn Spanopolous’ gravesite was supposed to be a place of comfort for her son, but instead, it’s been a target.
“Every time I come to see his gravesite, it upsets me,” Wes Spanopolous said. “Somebody has kicked it, hit it with things. It’s loose.”
Vandals also damaged a cross that was moved from the scene of Shawn Spanopolous’ motorcycle accident. Holthouse says vandals have done burnouts with a motorcycle on the grave in the past and even poured alcohol on it. She says she’s asked the Hardage-Giddens Greenlawn Funeral Home and Cemetery if it could increase security, and she says she offered to pay for surveillance video — options she says the funeral home will not agree to.
“They told us no we can’t put up a camera. They told us we cannot hire security to come around his birthdate and the day he passed, because that’s when we see the most stuff happen. So I asked can I pay for JSO (Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office) off-duty officers, pay for security? They told me no,” Holthouse said.
Holthouse says because the funeral home can’t stop the vandalism, her son wants his father disinterred and cremated instead.
“We could have him put his ashes put into a necklace. If he was cremated, we could take him around to places,” Wes Spanopolous said.
The News4JAX I-TEAM went to the funeral home’s main office for comment but was asked to leave the property.
The funeral home later issued this statement:
“As part of our commitment to all client families, we guard their privacy and do not discuss specific matters with the media. However, we are committed to providing all families with a serene and peaceful environment for visitation and remembrance, and we explicitly prohibit destructive or disruptive behavior that might interfere with the services we conduct or disturb the families we serve. We are working closely with the family to remedy the situation.”
Holthouse says the vandalism is taking a toll on her son.
“He’s been through enough losing his dad as traumatically as he did, he doesn’t deserve to go through more,” Holthouse said. “He deserves to come here and it’s peaceful, it’s no graffiti and nothing’s damaged. “
Holthouse says her late husband didn’t have any known enemies and she doesn’t know why someone would consistently target his gravesite.
As a result of this story, the funeral home has offered to disinter his body and cremate him for $1,500 — a service that would have cost more than $5,000. Holthouse wants her late husband cremated at no cost because she says security and maintenance of the gravesite is the cemetery’s responsibility.