Lawsuit says N.Y. cemetery employees stole woman's coffin

July 6, 2013 at 1:42 PM

NEW YORK, July 6 (UPI) -- Two women says employees at a Catholic cemetery in New York stole their sister's military coffin in 1989 after accidentally digging up her body.

Santina Picattaggio and Nancy Roe have sued the Archdiocese of New York and the Church of St. Mary on Staten Island, the New York Daily News reported Saturday. The body of their sister, Juanita Scarfia, was found in December, buried in the wrong grave.

Scarfia killed herself in 1970 after entering a convent and then leaving and joining the Army because she had fallen in love with a priest. The suicide apparently was triggered by a letter from the priest saying he was committed to the church.

Scarfia's siblings decided last year to have her body moved because their brother, a former New York police officer, had died in a helicopter crash and was buried in another Staten Island family plot next to his son. When Scarfia's grave was opened, it turned out to be empty.

The sisters say Scarfia's body was apparently disinterred during an exhumation in a neighboring plot. Her bones, military name tag and epaulettes have been recovered.

In the lawsuit, Roe and Picataggio suggest Scarfia's metal coffin was sold for scrap metal or for reuse in another burial.

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