Police have not ruled out cult actions in their investigation into the theft of a body from a mausoleum from the Greenwood Cemetery in Pleasantville, N.J.
The theft, which occurred sometime late last week, was discovered by cemetery workers when they found the door to the Spinelli family mausoleum had been pried open and the casket empty, Pleasantville Police Capt. Rocky Melendez told the Press of Atlantic City.
“The window was broken. The locking mechanism had been removed. The marble that you place in front of the tomb had been broken out,” Melendez said. “The marble had been laid on the ground and the casket had been pulled out from its entombment. The casket was then forcibly opened. Upon inspection of the interior of the casket, the body had been removed.”
The remains taken were that of Pauline Spinelli, who died at the age of 98 in 1996, according to police. Hers were the only remains taken; six other family members tombs remained untouched.
“We have spoken with some of the family,” he said. “Nothing seems to indicate that there would be a problem.”
Cemetery workers reported the mausoleum was in order Thursday when they landscaped the grass in the area, located on Washington Avenue, police said.
“At this point, we’re keeping our minds and investigative leads open to any possibility,” Melendez said in the interview with the Press of Atlantic City. “We’re reaching out to our neighboring communities so we can compare notes and see if there are any similarities or dissimilarities to try to get us on a path.”
Whomever is responsible came prepared, Melendez said. “They knew what they were doing.”
While a first time for Melendez, a 20-year plus law enforcement veteran, it isn’t the first time corpses have been stolen in New Jersey. Two bodies were stolen from two different Catholic cemeteries in Middlesex County in separate incidents, according to UPI.com
The first theft was reported in November 2010 at the open grave of a two-year-old boy who died more than 40 years ago. The incident occurred at St. Mary's Cemetery in Perth Amboy. On Feb. 15, 2011, the body of Joseph Lamela was reported missing from the grave he shared with his wife at the Most Holy Rosary Cemetery in Woodbridge. He died in 1977.
At that time Middlesex County Prosecutor Bruce Kaplan told the Star Ledger the bodies may have part of "non-traditional religious practices."
Pleasantville is a city in Atlantic County, just less than seven miles from Atlantic City. Legend has it the Jersey Devil was born in Pleasantville, or near the city.
For those unfamiliar with the story of the Jersey Devil, he is said to be the 13th child of a Quaker woman; stood a little shorter than a man with the body of a snake and the head of a horse. In 1909, he reportedly terrorized residents of the Pine Barrens.