Feb 10, 2012 1:44 PM by David Ortiviz

Some upset by headstones found in cemetery trash pile

Some are calling it a disgrace to the dead. A pile of headstones was recently discovered in a trash pile at one of the oldest cemeteries in the state. There's also a feud between the cemeteries board members and now lawmakers are considering new legislation to regulate cemeteries in Colorado.

Beyond a hill at Catholic Cemetery in Trinidad, there's a pile of broken headstones. Some with faded engravings. One clearly marked for a 5-month old baby. The headstones are dumped next to rusted cans and a toilet. "They should have taken them and repaired them or put them someplace that was respectful, not in a trash heap," said Thomas Murhpy, who runs Mullare Murhpy Funeral Home in Trinidad.

Murphy recently made the discovery at Catholic Cemetery during an interview with a Denver newspaper about the cemetery's operations. "I think all of us are a little bit sick to our stomach. It was how could this happen. Why would they discard these like this," said Murphy.

An attorney for Catholic Cemetery says when a family buys a new headstone, often that area is where the old one ends up. "It's doing no harm to anyone, but if someone thinks it's unsightly that's in the eyes of the beholder," said Dennis Malone, attorney.

However, there are deeper problems for Catholic Cemetery. "It's a one man operation," said Nick DeBono, a board member for Catholic Cemetery. We asked: "And that's who?" DeBone told us: "Fred Tavella."

For 30 years Fred Tavella has managed the cemetery and served as board president--seen by some as a conflict of interest. DeBono also says they seldom had meetings and he's accused Tavella of ignoring their own bylaws. "We never had an election, he was always the honcho," said DeBono.

DeBono is suing his fellow board members for financial malfeasance. "They should get rid of the whole board, including me," said DeBono.

The state attorney general's office is now investigating and state lawmakers are considering a bill that would require non-profit cemeteries to be more transparent and accountable.

"Picture here, pictures there might portray some bad things happening here, but you have to look long and hard to find any such things and then there's an explanation when you do," said Malone.

As for old or broken headstones, Mason Cemetery, the other cemetery in town told us theirs are kept inside in storage.

At Catholic Cemetery, there are no plans to remove the old headstones although they may put up a fence. "If that's what needs to be done, that's what will be done," said Malone.

Malone also pointed out, Fred Tavella plans to retire soon because of health problems.



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