JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – For the second time in nearly two decades, a Jacksonville woman's family must lay her beloved uncle to rest. This time, it's because someone vandalized the military veteran's grave.
Cheryl Brown's family visits her uncle Willie Graham at his Bartow burial site once a week. On Sunday, however, they found it covered by a blue tarp pinned down by cinder blocks. His clothes lay nearby.
Brown, who is the secretary for the Jacksonville City Council, said Graham's loved ones have no idea what happened, or why for that matter. "We are at a total loss," she told News4Jax.
His grave was the only one ransacked.
Graham's wife, who lives in Miami, was also upset to learn the news. She's not well enough to make the trip to visit his grave site. But, like her niece, she wants to know what happened.
Bartow police began investigating after a grave digger reported the discovery May 10. Officers found the cement cover removed, the casket open and some clothing removed from Graham's remains.
"To take his funeral grab, his clothing off of him and just have it thrown on the ground, I just can't wrap my head around it," said Brown.
The family was never told.
Officers noted in a police report that they could not determine who owns what is known as Palm Cemetery, and they could not locate any of the victim's loved ones to let them know what happened.
Brown isn't convinced.
She said her uncle, who was more like a grandfather to her, was an Army veteran who served in World War II and was well-known in the community.
"We are just devastated," said Brown. "We're having to bury my uncle twice."
After Monday's inquiries into the disturbed grave, Bartow police assigned a detective to the case.