4/20/2014

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Police: Former Ore. cemetery manager admits to disturbing graves

Police: Former Ore. cemetery manager admits to disturbing graves

FAIRVIEW, Ore. - Police say a former Metro cemetery manager has confessed to disturbing graves up to 50 times in a Fairview cemetery and then dumping dirt possibly with human bones in four different spots.

The district attorney has decided not to pursue charges but a state board that oversees cemeteries is still investigating, especially in light of the controversy over Metro admitting it resold hundreds of graves.

Human bones were discovered in dirt piles near Blue Lake Regional Park last spring and winter. Metro said the bones were inadvertently dumped there when excess dirt was removed from new grave sites at Pioneer cemeteries.

"They're digging up occupied graves and reselling them. That's what they do," Ron Overlie told KATU News last year. Overlie is a former gravedigger who videotaped the bones he found in the dirt piles. "They don't accidentally dig up these people. They don't tell you to stop digging. They actually tell you to keep digging and threaten to fire you if you don't."

Fairview police have launched an investigation. Detectives told KATU News Tuesday night a former cemetery manager, Susie Bousha, admitted human remains were disturbed up to 50 times during grave site excavations between 2001 and 2007. Additionally, dirt could have had bones in it and been dumped in four spots around Multnomah County.

In May, Paul Slyman with Metro Parks and Environmental Services denied that graves were being resold.

"Absolutely not," he said. "Our contractors are directed, if they see anything, to put it back into the parcel that they dug."

But five months later the tune changed when KATU News confronted Metro again with proof of 640 grave sites resold at Lonefir Pioneer Cemetery.

"They're very old," former Metro CEO Michael Jordan said then. "The vast majority are pre-1880. Of the rest, most are before 1975."

Metro blamed a records problem for the graves being resold. And it said it was typical for bones to shift in old graves that didn't have concrete liners like newer ones.

Metro would not comment Tuesday night because of the investigation.

Metro could be fined or sanctioned if the board finds wrongdoing.

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