By Grant Bissell
Berkeley, MO (KSDK) - On Thursday our Breaking News Center received an email so disturbing it just could not be ignored.
An open grave was found at Washington Park Cemetery in Berkeley, and the body inside was visible and exposed to the elements.
PHOTOS: Local cemetery in disrepair
When you take a look at Washington Park Cemetery, you can see something's wrong. Most of the land has been neglected for decades. There are high weeds, fallen headstones, and even crumbling graves.
Now the cemetery's owner is wanted by the City of Berkeley.
The nearly century old cemetery is the final resting place of more than 40,000 people. Some portions are so overgrown the headstones are barely visible.
It's at this cemetery a grave from 1922 lies in ruin, crumbled by time. No one knows how long the body of the child buried there was exposed before being re-covered.
Owner Kevin Bailey's grandmother and father are both buried in the cemetery.
"My dad, yeah, that was one of the main reasons why we're here right now," said Bailey.
He bought the cemetery in 2009 for just $2 and the grounds were in disrepair when he took over.
"Washington Park Cemetery never had an endowment. Therefore it was the responsibility of the people who have their loved ones interred here in the cemetery to clean up the cemetery," said Bailey.
There hasn't been a burial here in around 20 years, and most cemetery maintenance stopped soon after. Bailey says now it will cost between $65,000 and $80,000 to have the grass and trees professionally trimmed just once. He says that's money he just doesn't have.
The City of Berkeley says despite agreements between families and previous owners, Bailey is ultimately responsible for the cemetery and its numerous code violations.
"The fact is that when he purchased the cemetery there was a lot of things that needed to be done and he inherited that responsibility as well," said Interim City Manager Frank McCall.
The City of Berkeley has fined Bailey multiple times and even issued warrants, but because the cemetery is private property, McCall says that's about as far as he can go.
Bailey says he wants to do the right thing with the cemetery.
Volunteer groups have pitched in to clean up the cemetery from time to time, but it's just way too big of a project. The city says it's trying to find help for Bailey as well.
If you'd like to volunteer or make a donation to the cemetery you can contact Kevin Bailey directly at 314-355-6253 or Amge2009@aol.com.