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Police Probing Whether Cult Is Responsible For Body Stolen From N.J. Cemetery

Pauline Spinelli, 98, Died In 1996, But Now Her Corpse Is Missing
(credit: CBS 2)

(credit: CBS 2)

PLEASANTVILLE, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — It’s a real-life horror story for a local family. A grandmother’s body was snatched from her final resting place.

Now, police are trying to figure out who may have committed this unthinkable crime. CBS 2’s Dana Tyler spoke to the woman’s devastated family on Tuesday.

A lock and chain now surrounds and protects the Spinelli family mausoleum at the Atlantic City Cemetery in Pleasantville, where police say sometime Thursday night into Friday morning someone stole the body of 98-year-old Pauline Spinelli, who died in 1996.

“When they told me the body had been removed it was just beyond comprehension,” granddaughter Paula LaFollette said.

LaFollette said she got call from the cemetery Friday morning. Her parents, two aunts and an uncle are interred in the same crypt.

“The woman told me over and over again, ‘I don’t know how to tell you this,’ and I said just spit it out,” LaFollette said.

Pleasantville Police Capt. Rocky Melendez said the boulder sitting near the door may have been used to shatter the glass that probably wouldn’t have been heard by anyone.

“Despicable is the only thing that comes to mind,” Capt. Melendez said. “The mausoleum, itself, sits in the back of the graveyard, so it’s pretty desolate from the road.”

The thief or thieves then removed the door lock and broke the stone covering Spinelli’s interment site on the lower right side, police said.

“The casket had been removed, had been pried open,” Capt. Melendez said.

Spinelli’s body, which is dressed in a powder blue gown, was taken.

“I can’t imagine why anyone would want the body of my grandmother,” LaFollette said.

Police said they are looking into possible cult and religious ritual activity, including one called “Palo Mayombe.” Rooted in Africa, it is known for using rituals that blend elements of sacrifice, magic and spirits of the dead, CBS 2’s Derricke Dennis reported.

“It has been said that they do use human remains and animals to do their, either their sacrifices or their religious services,” Capt. Melendez said.

Last year, a 72-year-old man’s body was taken from a cemetery in Woodbridge. In 2010, a 2-year-old boy’s remains were removed from a grave in Perth Amboy.

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