State Shuts Compton Cemetery
State inspectors shut down Woodlawn Cemetery in Compton after they found human bone fragments and casket pieces scattered about the grounds, the Department of Consumer Affairs said Tuesday.
The inspectors also discovered that the 120-year-old cemetery “had unlawfully converted single burial graves to multiple graves, disturbed previously interred remains and then failed to properly reinter all of the remains. . . ,” according to a Department of Consumer Affairs statement.
Cemetery officials were unable to provide documentation “for disinterment and reinterment of remains for some of the last 20 most recent burials,” the agency said. And Woodlawn reportedly continued to sell cemetery plots, although it had none available.
The cemetery will remain closed to new burials and all visitors while state investigators clean up the site, identify the body parts and continue their investigation.
Officials at the cemetery could not be reached for comment.
Leah Johnson of Compton, whose cousin was buried at Woodlawn, was distraught outside the cemetery.
“This is very disturbing,” she said. “You can’t rest . . . when you find out your family member has been piled on top of other people.”
On Tuesday, about 20 state Cemetery and Funeral Bureau employees, with shovels and wheelbarrows, examined the site. The employees, including forensic archeologists, excavated the area around several graves and studied bone fragments.
The cemetery owner, Evergreen Memorial Care Inc., has agreed to comply with an order issued Monday by a Los Angeles administrative law judge closing the site pending a hearing.
Prearranged burials can take place only with the approval and oversight of the bureau, which will take charge of the cemetery’s endowment care funds. The owners have agreed to pay for the cleanup of the 25-acre grounds.
The problems were discovered last month when state workers conducted an “unrelated inspection,” said G.V. Ayers, chief of the bureau.
“We found a number of bone fragments in a number of places,” Ayers said. “The issue here is the sanctity of graves.”
Ayers said criminal charges might be filed against the owners.
State inspectors returned to the site a number of times and expanded the investigation, said Tracey Weatherby, a spokeswoman for the Department of Consumer Affairs. State officials then petitioned for the order to close the facility.
“There is definitive evidence that some grave sites were disturbed, but we don’t know how many,” Weatherby said “This does not affect every grave site. At this early point in the investigation, we don’t believe it is extremely widespread.”
The court order requires the bureau to file its allegations within 15 days. The owners have 30 days to respond. An administrative hearing is then held.
Families with questions about loved ones buried at Woodlawn may call the Department of Consumer Affairs at (800) 952-5210.