Care­taker of ne­glected, bone-strewn ceme­tery is ar­rested

The Mercury (Pottstown, PA) - - NEWS - By Dave Collins

A fuller pic­ture of a ceme­tery in ghastly dis­ar­ray emerged Thurs­day as the long­time care­taker of a grave­yard in Con­necti­cut’s largest city was ar­rested and of­fi­cials de­scribed in new de­tail shock­ing dis­cov­er­ies that in­cluded hu­man bones and cas­ket pieces scat­tered about.

About 130 graves were dis­turbed at the 57-acre ceme­tery and in­cluded those of Civil War vet­er­ans, Bridge­port au­thor­i­ties said. Grave­stones and re­mains had been re­moved to make way for the newly dead, while some new graves were stacked on top of old ones, sep­a­rated by a layer of dirt.

“What we found right away was a lot of dis­turbed dirt, garbage, head­stones that were over­turned and ... bone frag­ments that were later con­firmed to be hu­man re­mains, and pieces of old cas­kets that date back over 100 years,” po­lice Capt. Brian Fitzger­ald said at a news con­fer­ence.

“We were find­ing gravesites from some sol­diers that were close to 100 years, in some cases over 100 years old, mixed in with new burial plots from 2011 on,” he said.

At one point dur­ing hear­ings he held in re­cent months, Pro­bate Judge Paul Ganim said Thurs­day, “There were lit­er­ally bags of bones that were picked up by wit­nesses that were brought in.”

Rel­a­tives, in the ab­sence of govern­ment over­sight of the ceme­tery, have mean­while taken upon them­selves the mon­u­men­tal tasks of try­ing to es­tab­lish whether ev­ery­one is buried where they should be, de­cide what to do with newer re­mains buried atop older ones, iden­tify the un­earthed bones and frag­ments, and re­store or­der to the burial ground lo­cated just north of down­town.

“It’s ab­so­lutely just un­be­liev­able that peo­ple did this, and they’ve been do­ing this for a while,” said re­tired lawyer Ch­eryl Jansen, whose great-grand­par­ents and other rel­a­tives are buried at Park Ceme­tery. “You never think you have to worry about your dead rel­a­tives ... but I guess these days you do.”

BRIDGE­PORT PO­LICE DE­PART­MENT VIA AP

This photo re­leased Thurs­day, Dec. 6, by the Bridge­port Po­lice shows Dale LaPrade, a ceme­tery care­taker ar­rested for dis­turb­ing more than 100 graves in Bridge­port, Conn., over the past seven years.

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