Grave robbers stole body of Alabama man buried in 1882, sheriff says

Published 1:37 pm Sunday, March 28, 2021

An Alabama sheriff is on the hunt for vandals who dug up the grave of a man buried in 1882.

At Flint Hill Cemetery, somebody removed the hefty slab and dug a deep hole at the grave of early Lee County settler Samuel Jones, the Opelika-Auburn News reported.

Lee County Sheriff Jay Jones said he can’t say for certain whether the culprits disturbed the settler’s remains.

But Edna Ward of the Lee County Cemetery Preservation Commission said investigators found no casket or body.

“Let me put it like this: Where Jones was laid to rest, there’s an empty hole,” Ward said. “There’s nothing left. They took it all.”

Authorities were alerted to the vandalized gravesite Monday. They found the slab that had covered Samuel Jones’ grave, which weighed several hundred pounds (kilograms), damaged and moved to the side.

“A good amount of soil was removed from the gravesite,” the sheriff said. Asked if the body had been disturbed, he said: “We’re working to determine whether that occurred, but that’s very possible.”

Sheriff Jones said whoever dug up the grave may have hoped to find valuables buried with the body, though he added it’s unlikely anything valuable was in the grave.

Jessica Ventiere, district attorney pro tem for Lee County, said the destruction of a tomb or a container of human remains, like a grave, could result in a Class C felony charge — as could theft of a body.

It’s not the first time Samuel Jones’ grave had been targeted by vandals. Early last year, the obelisk marking the grave had been found pushed over and broken.

“It’s just a crying shame, and this time we aren’t going to stop until these people are caught,” Ward said. “There are many fine people who have lived here for years, but there’s also a couple of scoundrels among us apparently, and this needs to stop.”