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Police investigating if Huntsville property owner knew he disturbed centuries-old cemetery

WAAY 31 spoke to curious onlookers who can't believe what's going on.

Posted: Sep 5, 2019 6:38 PM
Updated: Sep 5, 2019 7:06 PM

WAAY 31 learned on Thursday a dig site behind a South Huntsville laundromat is actually a police investigation.

Police say they are trying to figure out if the property owner knew he was disturbing a centuries-old cemetery when he started developing the land.

Richards Cemetery is just off South Parkway and Hobbs Road. WAAY 31 spoke to curious onlookers who can't believe what's going on.

"You would have never, ever guessed there was a little cemetery here," Billie Taylor said.

Now, a lone tombstone sits in that open field. You can barely read the words, "In memory of Harriet Caroline." She's an 8-year-old girl who died in 1844.

Crime tape now surrounds the grave because police believe the property owner cleared some trees from this land in order to expand his business. Police say if he knew there was a cemetery there, he would need a permit from the Alabama Historical Commission. They say they don't know right now if a crime happened.

WAAY 31 reached out to the property owner over the phone. He didn't want to talk on camera until the investigation is complete. He said he never knew there was a cemetery on his land. He said he contacted police as soon as he found out about the grave.

"If they didn't know, I mean really didn't know, I don't think that it should be a crime. It's not like they came here and vandalized it," Taylor said.

Now, neighbors are curious about what will happen to the grave. One woman suggested honoring the little girl again hundreds of years later.

"Maybe people can have a little memorial service for her and pray for her again," Taylor said. 

We expect to learn more about this investigation Friday morning. Huntsville police say this is a unique situation for them, and they'll meet with several agencies to go over their findings.

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