Thieves ransack Coalinga cemetery, steal expensive equipment

COALINGA, Calif. (KFSN) -- A Coalinga cemetery plagued by years of mismanagement was just getting back on its feet when thieves ransacked the back parking lot and stole an expensive ATV.

"He took a pair of bolt cutters and he cut our chain here," said Gina Lopez, whose parents are buried here. "You can see the link is still on the ground."

If the dead could speak, Lopez wants them to tell her one thing. She's determined to find the man who trespassed on this sacred ground.

"It's hard for me to imagine somebody that would be that low to actually steal from a cemetery," she said

Lopez is the unofficial groundskeeper. She's volunteered dozens of hours, rehabilitating Pleasant Valley Cemetery after years of neglect. A pair of ATVs on loan was supposed to pick up the pace of their work until a man broke into their lot over the weekend.

"It's very hurtful. It's hard work that we are all doing, and they've really damaged us that way."

Lopez says the ATVs were well secured behind a fence, but the man in surveillance photos was still able to break-in. Investigators believe he tried stealing the first ATV but jammed the ignition. He then tried the second one and was successful.

"I'm sure you have someone interned here," said Lopez. "And just think how they would feel. Turn yourself in, bring back our Kubota."

The cemetery is now using vaults to block their entrances. The loss has set them back $15,000.

Volunteers say there will be no rest or peace for them until they find this man.
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