Bartow police are trying to find who’s responsible for digging up the grave of veteran Willie Graham, who was buried 19 years ago. Graham served in the Army during World War II. He died at 75 years old.
Now a blue tarp held down by cement blocks is all that’s left of his grave at Palm Cemetery in Bartow, Florida.
Otto Brown is one of Graham’s family members. He says the entire family is shocked, wanting to know why someone would remove Graham’s body from his grave and defile it.
“I have no idea of why someone would do something like this because we never bury any of our relatives with any valuables. Willie was a World War II veteran. How this happened to a veteran that put his life on the line to protect his country is most disturbing,” Brown said.
The crime happened sometime before May 10 when a worker found the grave destroyed and called the police. According to the police report, Graham’s pants were found on the ground near the casket, but nothing was taken. There were no valuables in the casket.
Brown says his family learned of the desecration when they went to lay flowers on the grave of another family member this past Mother’s Day weekend. Graham is buried near several family members.
“It knocked me to my knees to know someone treated his grave this way,” Brown said. “As a family, we are up here all the time. We don’t put our loved ones away and just walk away from them. This is our loved one. We already went through the trauma of his death one time and then have to come back and go through this same trauma again.”
Brown says Graham was very respected in Polk County.
“He was my mentor. He was a math teacher. He taught me how to really be interested in math,” he said.
Bartow police are investigating and say whoever is caught will be charged with a second-degree felony.
For now, the case is at a standstill. Anyone with information is asked to call Bartow Police at (863) 534-5034.
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