New Mexico town buries stranger over another man's gravesite

Updated: 07/07/2014 10:19 PM | Created: 07/07/2014 10:06 PM
By: Caleb James, KOB Eyewitness News

A Grants family called KOB 4 about something horrible. A complete stranger had been buried in the same grave as their loved one.

It's a troubling story that had us going straight to the city for answers.

Some things are supposed to be final.

Pat Salazar's father Melecio was laid to rest in 2012, but his rest has been far from peaceful.

"It's tough on everybody," he said.

Two years after this family stood grave-side and said their goodbyes to a father, husband and grandpa, the city of Grants called and said they had to dig back into his grave.

They had accidentally buried someone on top of him.

"So we're gonna just dig it up and take it out," said Melecio's widow Priscilla Salazar, remembering the call. Priscilla Salazar couldn't believe what she was hearing.

Grants City Clerk Denise Baca told the Salazars an urn filled with a stranger's ashes was buried on top of Melecio.

"She said it was just a mistake and that was it," said Priscilla.

The Salazar family was there when the urn was dug up.

"My mother started dreaming about my father again," said Pat Salazar. "She started thinking about him again. Had trouble sleeping at night." The other family was, too -- sobbing. "It's a lot of pain that a family has to go through," said Salazar.

Pat asked one of the groundskeepers how it happened.

"He said "we just get orders to dig, and we dig." he recalled.

City Clerk Denise Baca wouldn't go on camera but tells KOB she's the one who gives those orders. But because of a mapping error, workers dug in the wrong place.

She also told us, "The casket had been buried in Feb. 2012 so the ground had settled and there was no headstone in place."

But at the gravesite, there's absolutely no question Melecio has a headstone.

"We didn't get no formal apology no letter sent to us; nothing from the city," said Pat.

Baca from the city of Grants sent us a lengthy explanation for what happened, below.

"In May 2014 there was an incident in which an urn was mistakenly buried on top of a casket. An urn burial is 4' a casket is at 6' therefore while digging the grave no one noticed that there was a casket already buried there. The casket had been buried in Feb. 2012 so the ground had settled and there was no headstone in place. It was a very unfortunate incident. As soon as the error was brought to my attention, I contacted both families to notify them. As I notified the families I scheduled a time that was convenient for both of the families so that the urn could be relocated to the correct place. The error was corrected in the presence of both families. The casket was not disturbed. I believe this incident was an honest mistake. Both families have my sincerest apologies. I have since and will continue to take as much effort as possible to make sure that this does not happen again. You also stated that the family is requesting compensation. I have only been contacted by one person since the error occurred and the person that contacted me is not the person that made the payment for either of the plots."

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