Detroit police plan to exhume 20 bodies as they investigate cemetery records

Posted at 6:25 PM, Jun 07, 2021

DETROIT (WXYZ) — It was a heart-wrenching scene today at a Detroit cemetery. Families waited together to learn whether their loved ones are indeed buried in the proper plot.

“I don’t want this for anybody. This is a nightmare. This is a nightmare,” said Tina Hailey.

Tina Hailey says when her family tried to visit her mom and brother’s gravesites at Gethsemane Cemetery on Gratiot Avenue in Detroit, they found records at the cemetery confusing.

When she heard that another family had discovered a loved one buried in the wrong plot recently, she worried about her mom and brother’s resting places. She called a hotline set up by the city to address the concerns of families.

The city agreed that the records had discrepancies and made plans to exhume her mom and brother’s bodies.

“Having the funeral all over again,” said Hailey, as she described what the day feels like for her.

Detroit police say this all started in April when a family wanted to relocate a loved one’s body to another cemetery.

“Basically the wrong person was where the cemetery told them their loved one was,” said Commander Eric Decker, Detroit Police Department.

Police say the person was found a site over. The city set up a hotline to address concerns as it was realized it might not be an isolated incident. They investigated calls from about 50 families and found discrepancies in the records of 20 burials that happened between 2015 and 2020 under previous management.

Those bodies are being exhumed.

Police say at this point they have not found evidence of fraud or criminality, just sloppy record keeping. It is something police want to ensure is corrected.

Additionally, officials say seven bodies had been exhumed during the investigation. Those bodies were where they should have been. Only one body prompted the investigation. Officials say even that body was where it should have been, it was just the headstone that was switched with another one next to it.