Former homeowner helps to solve tombstone mystery

(WMC-TV) – The mystery of how more than one dozen military headstones ended up buried in a Memphis backyard has been solved.

Midtown resident Jason Blackburn was unsure what to think when he unearthed 20 headstones his backyard Saturday.

But Jack Sammons, once an owner of the house Blackburn now calls home, says he believes he may know the answer.

"To the real estate agent that sold it to me, I said 'What are all those marble blocks that are in the back?' And they were apparently tombstones," said Sammons.

Sammons says he was told headstones were transported by a cemetery employee.

"They said it was a gentleman that worked for the family that had it before that worked at the cemetery and when they chiseled the wrong name or misspelled it they had to throw them away," said Sammons.

The cemetery director says at one point all 20 headstones found in Blackburn's backyard belonged in the National Cemetery. He says in 1973, the Department of Veteran Affairs took over maintenance of the property.

"Right now, this morning, what we're doing is we're going out and taking photos of both sides of the headstones," said Cemetery Director Raymond Miller.

Miller says a thorough investigation into what happened is underway.

He says the headstones found in Blackburns backyard appear to be subsequent interments, a headstone replaced after family member combines a burial plot with a child or spouse.

"All of these headstones are government property," said Miller.

Miller says their policy requires that old headstones be immediately destroyed.

For anyone concerned that their loved one's headstone has been displaced, Miller says he hopes they will have peace of mind knowing that no grave sites have been compromised.

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