By LAURA HALM
6 News Reporter
OAK RIDGE (WATE) – Thieves in Oak Ridge added insult to injury to those who’ve lost a loved one when employees at Oak Ridge Memorial Park recently discovering a number of cremated remains are missing.
They made that discovery after cremated remains also came up missing in Knoxville. Employees in Oak Ridge say they believe the ashes of 11 people were stolen back in 2012 when two memorials were vandalized.
Previous story: Cremated remains of 40 people stolen from 2 Knoxville cemeteries
Oak Ridge Memorial Park installed a security gate and surveillance cameras after the vandalism.
“The families that we have talked with, the reaction has been what you would expect, just total heartbreak, and shock and grief,” said David Sansom, director of family services at Oak Ridge Memorial Park.
The memorials have been hiding a thief’s secret since 2012.
“Towards the end of the year, we had two separate incidents where we discovered that a cremation columbarium and a cremation bench had the fronts smashed in, probably with a sledge hammer to break the granite, and unfortunately the ashes inside had been taken,” added Sansom.
At the time, employees thought only two cremated remains were stolen, but when Knoxville police learned weeks ago the cremated remains of 40 people were missing, employees double checked.
“We went ahead and we went around and checked to make sure that everyone was still here,” said Sansom.
That’s when employees discovered nine more loved ones were missing. Oak Ridge police are now investigating and trying to figure out who is responsible and why they did it.
“It may be cult related. There may be some rituals that ashes were needed for, and we had done some research ourselves back when this happened to try and to find out why,” said Sansom.
Theories are constantly changing, but families who have already lost so much are now rocked with devastation again.
“There are very few things that are as sacred as the remains of someone you love, and we believe that whoever has done this definitely deserves to be prosecuted and sent to jail,” added Sansom.
Knoxville police say they have spoken with Oak Ridge investigators, but as of right now it’s too early to tell if these two cases are connected. KPD says they are continuing to follow up on leads.
Families who have been impacted are still being notified. Oak Ridge police say if anyone knows something about these stolen ashes to call investigators at (865) 425-3504.