FLORISSANT, Mo. - Disrespecting the dead and causing pain to already grieving loved ones. That's how customers of a monument company feel.
They don't have headstones even though they paid for the sacred service. Now, 5 on Your Side's Mike Rush is shedding light on what may have brought the decades-old Schaefer Monument to its knees, and what's next for dozens of unhappy customers.
Needing a cane to walk, it's not easy for 85-year-old Audrey Lang to make her way to her husband's grave. It's even harder to see the shape it's in.
"It really upsets me emotionally," said the widow.
A World War II veteran, father and grandfather, a remarkable man she says, in an unmarked grave.
"It looks like I'm not thinking about him and I am," she said.
Audrey ordered a headstone for her husband of nearly 64 years last August from Schaefer Monument. She paid half, $750, but still doesn't have the headstone.
5 on Your Side visited Schaefer Monument in 2012 for a similar complaint. One of the owners, Rich Schaefer, told Mike Rush they were a year behind because of illness in the family-run company and increased business. That time we were able to get the customer's headstone.
Rich Schaefer said then, "We've been here over 55 years, we're not going to go nowhere."
But the Schaefers have gone somewhere. At their Florissant office, there are still headstones inside, but the door is locked and a faded sign on the door says they're closed. And on Mike Rush's four visits to their headquarters on Lucas and Hunt, it's locked tight.
"They promised to do something, which they never did," said Jeannine Maciak. Her family paid Schaefer to engrave her mother's name next to her father's on an existing headstone.
Eight months later, no name and no explanation from Schaefer.
"It's painful. I mean they're victimizing families who are grieving a loved one," said Maciak.
The secret to what went sour with the Schaefer Monument could lie in the sacred grounds of Jefferson Barracks. A Veterans Affairs spokesperson confirms to 5 on Your Side the company won a contract in 2011 to inscribe headstones and urn monuments on site at the National Cemetery.
Sources say the demands of that contract were more than Schaefer could handle and the VA confirms it is evaluating the company's performance.
"Well, they should not have sold them if they didn't think they could fill the orders," said Lang, who has no sympathy for the company she believes dishonored her beloved husband and prolonged her grief. "I was crying, couldn't sleep because I thought here, it's almost a year."
The Better Business Bureau has more than 40 complaints against Schaefer. Many are closed as inconclusive because it couldn't track down the owners.
On Mike Rush's third visit to Schaefer there was a new sign on the door stating it is in the process of changing management, and there's a promise that all contracts will be honored.
We'll stay on top of it and let you know what happens.