BARTOW, Fla. — The grave of a U.S. veteran buried 19 years ago in Bartow, Florida was dug up, according to Bartow Police. His clothes were taken right off his body and found on the ground near the casket. Family members said they can’t understand who would do this.
The grave belongs to 75-year-old Willie Graham, who was laid to rest in 1999 after he spent his entire life giving to others. He served in the Army during World War II and was a math teacher in Polk County for years.
Graham is well known in the Bartow community, and his grave site is next to his mother and father and several other relatives.
"To take his funeral garb, his clothing off of him and just have it thrown on the ground, I just can't wrap my head around it,” said Cheryl Brown, Willie Graham’s niece.
Her family came to the site Sunday to lay flowers down on her mother's grave when they noticed a blue tarp on top of Graham's grave site. According to police, it had been discovered by a city parks and recreation employee on May 10.
"It had to take two or three people several hours to get this done. It had to be done at night where no one can see it,” said family member Otto Brown.
Family members are confused why police couldn’t find any of them to notify, but police said they don’t have records because it’s not city property.
The report said police attempted to get information from the funeral home that did the burial 19 years ago, but said they also don’t own the property. Scripps station WFTS in Tampa reached out to Coney Funeral Home, and are waiting to hear back.
Police said they are also trying to find out who did this. Brown said they don't bury their family members with valuables.
"That's a very evil human being that did this and the world could do without them,” Otto Brown said.
Willie’s wife, who lives in Miami, can’t make it to the gravesite because she just had hip surgery, but said she is also sick to her stomach over this.
"Right now what's important is for us to put my uncle back at rest,” Cheryl Brown said.
The family is in contact with police at this point. Officers said they will work with the family to get this grave site cleaned up and back to where it should be.