Funeral Industry News

Relatives Find Grave Open, Part of Body Visible

January 4, 2010

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Relatives Find Grave Open, Part of Body Visible

imageNEW ORLEANS — Mary Marsh and her family walked through Holt Cemetery, grief and anger visible on their faces.

When they arrived at her sister’s grave, they pulled back a piece of metal they placed there Wednesday that covered the hole in the grave that left part of her sister’s body exposed.

“I have never seen anything like this in my life,” said Mary Marsh.

The hole revealed a shallow grave, the inside lined with what looked like a gray, plastic tarpaulin. A flower rested in the grave, as if to offer comfort, but what they saw left family members sickened.

“You can look at her feet sticking out right here. You can just see it. This is awful.”

Sherene Marsh Jones died suddenly from an aneurysm last September and was buried here on Oct. 2. On Tuesday family members came back.

“Bringing the kids,” Mary said. “It was her birthday. They bought some birthday cards and flowers and everything, and they were going to tell their mother Happy Birthday. But we came out here, and we came to a hole with part of her body hanging out.”

Quite a few times over the years we’ve had to come to Holt Cemetery for a variety of issues, including cases where bones were found on the ground. But this is the first time we’ve ever been called because a body resurfaced just months after the funeral. For the family, though, there is one question that is haunting them.

“Where is the casket? Because at the funeral we didn’t see her feet or anything, she was in a beautiful casket. We come back for her birthday, the casket is gone, and the feet are hanging out. Where is her casket?”

Holt is a city-owned cemetery, and the owner of the funeral home that handled Sherene Marsh’s service said burials here are often in shallow graves dug by city workers. He checked the grave, saying the casket was still in place, though the lid had caved in. But he said the grave was exposed because there was not enough dirt on top of it.

But as family members put the metal sheet back to cover her sister’s grave, Mary Marsh grieved.

“It’s like a piece of my heart has been just ripped out, because I can’t believe it.”

After being contacted by Eyewitness News, a spokeswoman for the mayor said city officials will look into this immediately.