Judge bars new graves at Park Cemetery
BRIDGEPORT - The dead will remain at peace at Park Cemetery.
A Superior Court judge on Monday issued a temporary injunction barring the cemetery’s manager, Dale LaPrade, from selling any more plots at the 140-year-old cemetery where gravestones already exist and interfering with any plots already there following allegations that she was burying new bodies over old graves and moving head stones.
“This is fantastic news for all Park families,” said Cheryl Jansen, who has generations of family buried at the Lindley Street cemetery. “We can now move forward and give our loved ones the respectful resting place they deserve. I hope the Bridgeport Police Department continues its investigation into all the wrongdoing including financial questions still to be answered by Ms. LaPrade.”
During a hearing in court, police detectives Jorge Cintron and Kimberly Biehn told Superior Court Judge Elizabeth Stewart that dozens of headstones, some dating back to the 1800s, had been moved so that the newly dead could be buried in plots stacked on old graves.
“New dirt was put over older graves and new graves were put there,” Biehn testified.
“There was fresh soil over old head stones and they were in the process of building an access road through the stones,” Cintron testified. “In the woods we found old head stones and human bones that had just been thrown around.”
Cintron said a grave digger told him that he had been ordered by LaPrade to throw old bones and caskets away to make room for new graves.
Following the initial stories on the situation by Hearst Connecticut Media dozens of people from around the state who have family buried at the cemetery rushed there. Some left happy to find their loved ones’ graves intact but others were not so lucky.
Jean Stott, of Shelton, burst into tears after she saw that a new grave had been placed on top of the grave of her grandfather, a Word War II veteran who died in 1979.
And burials were still being done at the cemetery.
“This court finds that preexisting gravesites have been disturbed to the point of breaking up bones and caskets. This court also finds that grave markers have been moved from their original locations and broken. The court concludes from this evidence that Park Cemetery has not been maintained in compliance with the statutes governing cemeteries,” Judge Stewart ruled in her decision on Monday. “This damage is continuing and will likely continue unless a temporary injunction issues to stop it.”