MANSFIELD, Ohio (AP) — Part of a mystery involving a broken tombstone found in the yard of a northern Ohio woman has been solved.
Now the question is how it got there.
Mansfield police say the granite tombstone from Mansfield Cemetery once marked the grave of Leroy Paul Miller, a World War II veteran who died in 1969.
Mansfield resident Cherokee Whitmire told police that she found part of the tombstone in her yard this past week. The stone originally was about 1 1/2 feet in height and width. It had been split diagonally with partial words “Leroy P,” “Worl,” Penns” and “S Sgt 128” remaining along with the birth date, WJW-TV in Cleveland reported.
A search of the Richland County Genealogical Society’s veterans index matched the partial information with Miller’s records. The records showed that Miller was born in Bolivar, Pa., in 1923, moved to Mansfield and served in the U.S. Army during World War II. Records also showed that he died in 1969, and was buried in Mansfield Cemetery.
Whitmire said she had no idea how Miller’s stone ended up in her yard or who left it there.
“It weighed on my mind and I thought, like, it was my responsibility to try and give it back to his family,” she told the Mansfield News Journal.
An expert on cemetery and veterans affairs suspects the fractured tombstone was discarded after a new stone was purchased. The grave is now marked by a flat 42-by-12-inch stone.
Anthony Delong, executive director at the Richland County Veterans Service Commission, said Miller’s wife Katherine applied for and received the granite veteran’s marker first used to mark the grave from the U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs.
The current tombstone that replaced it bears the names of Leroy and Katherine Miller, who died in 1971.
Delong said someone must have decided to put down the new marker, taking out the original one. But police don’t know who removed the marker or how it was broken and ended up in Whitmire’s yard.
Police have said they would work with the cemetery to find the veteran’s survivors.
Charges could be filed against the person or company responsible for removing and damaging the old marker, which Delong said was government property.