'Just horrified': 11 graves dug up at Gary cemetery as family searches for deceased father
GARY, Ind. - A family's search for closure was interrupted when their loved one’s grave site, seemingly, went missing.
Between Tuesday and Wednesday, 11 graves at Oak Hill Cemetery in Gary, Indiana were dug up as two women searched for their deceased father’s final resting place.
But they say the headaches started long before this week, and want their story shared in hopes to prevent another family from experiencing the same pain.
"Crazy, upset, hurt, just horrified," said Shalanda Johnson, James Wilson’s daughter.
It was not what Johnson and Tyhesha Wilson envisioned for their dad.
James Wilson passed away at 78 years old in October 2021 and was buried at Oak Hill Cemetery just days later.
However, Wilson's daughters say the cemetery never put a grave marker down and recorded their father as being buried in the wrong location.
Wilson's daughters paid for a headstone, but say Oak Hill Cemetery never installed it, telling them the pandemic delayed the process.
"And we understood that," said Johnson.
Then, just weeks after his burial, the family returned to release balloons for their father.
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"They took us to the grave site, because it’s not marked, there’s nothing, we don’t know the plot or anything," said Johnson. "They directed us to that area, and I’m like, no this is not the area."
Amid the confusion, Johnson asked the cemetery to make it right.
"How do we fix this, how do I know this is my dad, and I requested to dig him up," said Johnson.
Johnson tells FOX 32 Chicago the request was delayed, until this week when her family asked the cemetery to locate Wilson’s grave once and for all.
"They kept digging and digging. The last one, the eleventh one was my daddy," said Johnson.
Sisters, Johnson and Tyhesha Wilson say they are grateful for the discovery, but described the process as a heartbreaking one. They say their hearts also go out to the loved ones of the other deceased individuals that were disrupted during the search.
"It’s like going through another funeral again. Seeing that casket again, is something I never thought I’d have to do again," said Tyhesha Wilson, James Wilson’s daughter.
The women say they are still left with more questions than answers and hope to share this experience to make others aware.
"My question is why this long. No explanation, no phone calls, no compassion, no nothing, we were very, very patient," said Johnson.
FOX 32 Chicago made several requests to the owner of the cemetery for an explanation Wednesday but did not immediately hear back.
Wilson's daughters said they are told their father's headstone will be installed this week.