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August 14, 2012

Brownsville cemetery reports grave break-ins

A baby’s skull was among the items stolen from a cemetery in the Brownsville neighborhood of central Miami-Dade County.

Two more graves were desecrated earlier this month at Lincoln Memorial Cemetery in Brownsville.

“They broke into two more graves last week looking for bones,” said Jessica Williams, 38, a caretaker and niece of the cemetery’s owner, Elyn Johnson, 83. “We filed a police report but the officers aren’t doing much to help.”

A Miami-Dade police spokesman had no immediate comment.

The Aug. 2 break-ins follow similar crimes in February, when grave robbers opened seven above-ground tombs looking for bones to use in rituals, Williams said.

“We’re struggling to do the best we can to serve the community,” said Williams, who oversees more than 1,500 above-ground tombs most of which are stacked so close that you need to climb over tombs to reach a loved one.

Williams concedes that many plots at the multi-acre site located at 3001 NW 46th St. are covered with weeds and have been damaged by the elements and neglect. But the worst destruction, she says, has come from man.

“They took the skull off another baby,” said Williams, who thinks the robbers simply hop the small fence and use the cover of night to commit the crimes.

Williams said that most of the tombs are above ground which makes them more vulnerable than graves.

Nearby, an adult’s tomb was badly damaged, but thieves were not able to pry open the vault inside.

“I have two relatives buried here but have no idea where they’re at,” said neighborhood activist Renita Holmes, who wanted to check on a relative over the weekend.

Lincoln is the final resting place of many Miami black pioneers including D.A. Dorsey, Miami’s first black millionaire; the Rev. John Culmer, rector of the historic St. Agnes Episcopal Church in Overtown; and Dr. William Sawyer, Miami-Dade County’s first black physician.

“We need to protect our ancestors because this is our history,” said Williams. “This has to stop.”

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