PLEASANTVILLE — A corpse buried in 1996 was stolen from a cemetery last week, police said Monday.
Police have not ruled out the possibility that a cult might be involved.
Greenwood Cemetery workers found the door of the Spinelli family mausoleum broken and the casket opened Friday morning and reported the incident to police, Capt. Rocky Melendez said.
“The window was broken. The locking mechanism had been removed. The marble that you place in front of the tomb had been broken out,” Melendez said. “The marble had been laid on the ground and the casket had been pulled out from its entombment. The casket was then forcibly opened. Upon inspection of the interior of the casket, the body had been removed.”
The remains were those of 98-year-old Pauline Spinelli who died in June 1996. Her remains were one of six kept in the Spinelli mausoleum.
Cemetery personnel told police that when they groomed the grass on Thursday the mausoleum was intact.
Metal bars on Monday still covered the glass door, which was broken, and the lock was still missing. The door is now held shut with a chain that wraps around the entire structure.
The mausoleum is located in a back corner of the cemetery located on Washington Avenue.
“At this point, we’re keeping our minds and investigative leads open to any possibility,” Melendez said. “We’re reaching out to our neighboring communities so we can compare notes and see if there are any similarities or dissimilarities to try to get us on a path.”
“We have spoken with some of the family,” he said. “Nothing seems to indicate that there would be a problem.”
Melendez said that they are still investigating the possibility that the remains may have had value to a cult group. He said that research indicates that towns in northern New Jersey have experienced similar incidents.
In November 2010 and February 2011, bodies were removed from graves in Middlesex County, according to an Associated Press article in The Press archives. In the article, an investigator is quoted as saying that the incidents may have been tied to “individuals involved in nontraditional religious practice.”
“Obviously the person that did this came well-prepared. The knew what they were going to do.”
Melendez said he believes here was more than one person involved.
A large pointed rock was found on the ground outside of the mausoleum. Melendez said it could have been the tool used to break the window. He said a hammer may have been used to break the glass.
The cemetery does not hold a key to the actual mausoleum. Only the family holds a key, Melendez said.
Melendez called the incident disconcerting.
“It’s incredible,” he said. “This is the first time I’ve experienced anything like this in 23 years working here in the city. This is very bizarre.”
Cemetery officials had no comment.
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