Brighton couple finds their family cemetery plot occupied

Charles Roth stands in front of the grave that was dug in his family’s plot over the winter.  When he and his wife, Linda, visited the grave this spring they discovered that someone had apparently been buried   there without their knowledge.  For a story, please see page twenty-two.   Photo by Tena Starr

Charles Roth stands in front of the grave that was dug in his family’s plot over the winter. When he and his wife, Linda, visited the grave this spring they discovered that someone had apparently been buried there without their knowledge. For a story, please see page twenty-two. Photo by Tena Starr

copyright the Chronicle July 30, 2014 

by Tena Starr

BRIGHTON — Charles and Linda Roth visited their family cemetery plot here in late April and were astonished to find that someone had been buried in it over the winter.

“We visited the cemetery to pay our respects, and we saw there was an apparent burial there,” Mr. Roth said. “I don’t know who’s in there, or if anyone is in there.”

But it sure looks like someone is, he said.

“I really was shocked when I came down to remove the wreath,” Mrs. Roth said. “I thought what is that?”

First, Mr. Roth went to the State Police. “They chose to do little or nothing,” he said.

Then he went to the Brighton Selectmen.

“I went to the town two weeks ago and expressed our concern about the fact that someone is buried there illegally,” Mr. Roth said. “I’m not going to get a shovel and dig the hole out. That’s not for me to do. This person was buried when there was snow on the ground. They had someone come in and plow to the gravesite, which was on our property.

“I was a little taken aback by it. It’s just not the proper thing to do. I didn’t think anyone had passed in our family.”

Mr. Roth said he hasn’t heard of a situation quite like this, and doesn’t know how it will be remedied.

Brighton’s selectmen referred the matter to Cemetery Commissioner Robert Daniels, who said it was an honest mistake.

“There’s a body buried there that isn’t supposed to be,” he said. “When you dig in the middle of January it’s kind of hard to tell exactly where you are. It’s an honest mistake of one foot. It’s not 50 feet or 75 feet, it’s one foot.”

He said he’s spoken to the people from the other side of the Roth’s lot and believes there is a simple solution.

“I’ve got to open the grave and slide her over,” Mr. Daniels said. “I’ve just got to dig her up and move her one foot to the left. It’s going to be a peaceable solution. It’s not going to be any gun play at the OK Corral.”

The Roths say the owners of the neighboring plot are not responsible for the mysterious burial.

A burial shouldn’t have actually occurred in mid-January, Mr. Daniels said. But the woman was Jewish, and had to be buried within 24 hours under Jewish tradition.

It does happen, for a variety of reasons, that a person is occasionally buried in the wrong spot, Mr. Daniels said.

“They happen once in a while,” he said. “For example, you sell a lot to a customer and they don’t put cornerstones in it to make that lot. Twenty years down the line that person you sold that lot to is living in Texas, or where to hell ever…”

A person may want to buy the lot, Mr. Daniels said, and if it’s unmarked, no one may realize it’s already been sold.

“So, you know, screw-ups happen.”

Mr. Roth said Tuesday that he does not believe the burial was the result of a simple mistake. The lot is clearly marked, he said, although it might have been difficult to see the cornerstones in January.

Cornerstones do mark the Roth plot, which includes two 20-foot by 20-foot areas. The new grave, which has not been completely backfilled, or replanted, is snug up against the line but entirely on the Roth plot, according to the granite cornerstones.

“When you put someone into the ground, whoever that may be, it’s not a mistake,” Mr. Roth said. “Being a foot off is not a mistake.”

He said he believes the burial was deliberately done on his plot.

“That’s taking advantage of the goodness of my family,” he said.

Recently, Mr. Roth put a “no trespassing” sign on his family’s graveyard plot.

“I don’t want anybody on our property until this issue is addressed and someone has the courtesy and decency to speak to us,” he said.

contact Tena Starr at tenas@bartonchronicle.com

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