Coroner's office begins to process 150 veterans gravestones

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

AUGUSTA, GA (WRDW/WAGT) -- Coroner Mark Bowen's office has already begun the process of going through the 150 gravestones for veterans located abandoned at the former Dent Undertaking Establishment. We're told crews have started digging in the area, but they don't know for sure whether they will find anything.

Bowen's office is compiling a list of the gravestones found Monday and comparing them to burial site records to see if it's possible that the gravestones could be duplicates or missing from the burial location.

"The list is being made right now," Bowen said. "We have a contact out of St. Louis that is hooking us up. because they are all veterans and is trying to assist us with where they are buried, you know, if they got markers and what they can do to help."

[RELATED: Read the full list of 150 veterans who may be missing a gravestone.]

So far, according to Bowen, one burial site located has been missing one of these gravestones since the veteran was buried in 1999. A forensic pathologist is now involved in the investigation as well.

"Since I've been here, we got another person that says they got a family member died that was military, buried, and still does not have a marker on it," Bowen said. "He died in '53."

Those markers, found on land owned by the Augusta Landbank Authority, were located in a garage covered by old blankets and trash.

"It's like any investigation, you have to investigate to find out," Bowen said. "I would be proud to find these are all mistakes and that folks do have markers on their graves. I would be proud of that to know people were taken care of. I don't think that is the case. But there again we won't know until we investigate to find who does and who doesn't have markers on their grave."

District Attorney Natalie Paine agreed.

"To know that their grave hasn't been marked for all these years, I think that's a really disservice to them and what they've done for us," Paine said.

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