Society

Family Finds Decaying Foot In Grandfather's Grave (Photos)

| by Michael Howard
Mt. Olivet CemeteryMt. Olivet Cemetery

A family mourning the death of a loved one got a horrible surprise when they spotted a human foot poking out from an adjacent grave.

As the body of 85-year-old Cleveland Butler was being lowered into the ground at Mount Holiness Memorial Park in New Jersey, his family noticed that a deceased person's foot had crossed over into the space reserved for Butler's casket.

Sandra Butler, Cleveland's daughter, said she was horrified by the sight.

"This was a very traumatizing situation, first dealing with losing my father and then this," she told the New York Daily News. "I couldn’t even look at it. It was too much and no one said anything to us. It was like business as usual for them. They just dumped the dirt in the plot like it was normal, like it’s nothing to them."

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Cleveland, who died of a stroke at a Brooklyn nursing home, is survived by four children, nine grandchildren and six great-grandchildren, many of whom were present at the burial.

"We all looked down and we were looking at what apparently was a human foot and leg wrapped in plastic, with cloth wrapped around it, sticking out on top of my father’s casket," Alonzo Butler recalled.

In a picture taken of the grave, a human leg is clearly visible, protruding from the dirt. It appears to be resting directly on top of Cleveland's blue coffin.

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Alonzo said the cemetery workers -- one of whom dropped a pack of cigarettes and a cell phone into the grave and had to fish them out -- saw the foot but quickly filled in the grave anyway.

"They heard it was a leg on the casket and they didn't even try to investigate it," he said.

He added that he feels sorry for the family and friends of the other corpse.

"We were shocked," he said. "All we could say was 'Wow,' because that was a human, someone else’s loved one. I feel guilty seeing someone else's family member like that."

The Butlers say they're thinking about hiring an attorney and suing the cemetery for damages -- a prospect that Mount Holiness owner James Schmergel finds excessive.

"Is it newsworthy? In a cemetery?" he asked. "Not really."

Caretaker Bill Plog expressed a similar view, suggesting that such things are more common than people realize.

"There was a casket. It deteriorated," he told the New York Daily News. "You can purchase a concrete vault, but people don't. That grave there is from 1969 ... It’s unfortunate that this happened, but this is a graveyard."

Caskets have also been known to explode, according to Josh Slocum, director of the Funeral Consumers Alliance.

"When the weather turns warm, in some cases, [a] sealed casket becomes a pressure cooker and bursts from accumulated gases and fluids of the decomposing body," he wrote in the Washington Post in 2014.

"There’s no way of telling how common exploding caskets are, since no official agencies are charged with tracking the problem," he added. "But as head of the Funeral Consumers Alliance, I frequently hear from families around the country who have sued cemeteries and funeral homes for exploding caskets."

Sources: New York Daily News, Washington Post / Featured Image: Daniel Lobo/Flickr / Embedded Images: Butler Family via New York Daily News

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