BRIDGEPORT, Conn. -- (WTIC/AP) -- A former cemetery caretaker has been arrested in connection with the desecration of dozens of graves at the Bridgeport burial ground she and her husband oversaw for decades.
Bridgeport police say Dale LaPrade turned herself in Thursday after being told there was a warrant for her arrest. She was charged with felony interference with a cemetery and released on a promise to appear in court Dec. 18.
Complaints from relatives of those buried at Park Cemetery led police to search the property in September. Officials say gravestones and human remains were moved to make way for the newly dead, while human bones, casket pieces and broken gravestones were found in the woods.
A state judge ousted LaPrade as caretaker last week.
Gravestones and remains moved without permission to make way for the newly dead. New graves simply stacked on top of old ones, separated by a new layer of dirt. Worst of all, human bones, casket pieces and old headstones tossed in the woods like trash.
The stunning discoveries led police to arrest the caretaker, Dale LaPrade, on Thursday morning. Families still are trying to establish whether the remains of their loved ones and other, older graves are where they're supposed to be, and — in the absence of any government overseers — are stuck with the responsibility of making sure this never happens again.
The findings in Connecticut's largest city are the latest to highlight problems at cemeteries nationwide that have included the reselling of plots, vaults broken to make room for more remains and generally lax government oversight.
In Connecticut, the state public health department must approve new cemeteries, but no state agency is specifically charged with cemetery oversight. That appears to have led at least in part to the failings at the 57-acre Park Cemetery.
Police searched the cemetery and its offices in September. Detectives testified in court that they found old gravestones in the woods, broken stones lying around and bones, later identified as human, lying on the ground. Authorities dug into dirt piles and found pieces of old caskets. A cemetery historian concluded that new graves were placed where burials had occurred between 1890 and 1934.
Officials also found financial records in disarray and unopened mail from 20 years ago.
A police investigation continues and has not established the whereabouts of the upkeep money.
LaPrade appeared in court last week in a wheelchair and told Judge Barbara Bellis, “I've stayed away. I've been trying to get out of the cemetery for 10 years. I've been ill,” The Connecticut Post reported.
She turned herself in to Bridgeport police on Thursday and was charged with felony interference with a cemetery before being released on a promise to appear in court Dec. 18. The Associated Press left messages with LaPrade seeking comment.