‘It’s just wicked’: Remains missing after caskets broken into during ‘ritualistic activity’ at Lake County cemetery, deputies say

LAKE COUNTY, Fla. — Human remains are missing after Lake County deputies said four graves were broken into as part of “ritualistic activity” at Edgewood Cemetery over the weekend.

Deputies said Emma Boothe was driving by the cemetery on Britt Road in Mount Dora on Sunday called authorities after she noticed a disrupted tombstone.

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“I walked up and there was this poor man, he had been buried in the 1980s,” Boothe told Channel 9 on Monday. “I think it took a minute to process what I was looking at. I was standing at the head of his grave but there was a pillow but there was nothing laying on it. At that point I called 911.”

Boothe said she doesn’t think she’ll ever be able to forget what she saw.

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“When I processed it, it made me sick to my stomach,” she said. “I mean talking about it makes me sick. That is probably something I will never get out of my head.”

When deputies arrived, they said they found that someone had gotten access to four grave sites and tried to break into a fifth.

Investigators said they found the concrete lids to the graves were broken into pieces and that the caskets had been pried open.

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Vernell Parker said her mother’s grave was one of the ones broken into. She said her mother was buried at the cemetery more than 32 years ago.

“It’s just wicked, evil,” Parker said. “These are the days we are living in.”

According to deputies, detectives found evidence that suggests the incident is “very likely tied to some form of ritualistic activity.”

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Deputies said they have stepped up patrols at graveyards in the area. They believe this took place Saturday night and was not the work of one person, but many people.

Lt. John Herrell said he’s never seen a case like this one in his career.

“I’ve been here for 24 years and I’ve never seen anything like this,” Herrell said. “It’s weird. It’s bizarre.”

A representative for the cemetery told deputies that there was a funeral at the cemetery on Saturday, and that as far as he knew the equipment for the burial was removed that day by 3 p.m.

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Deputies are asking for anyone who may have noticed any type of suspicious vehicles or suspicious activity at the cemetery Saturday night to call the Sheriff’s Office at 352-343-2101.

Sarah Wilson

Sarah Wilson, WFTV.com

Sarah Wilson joined WFTV Channel 9 in 2018 as a digital producer after working as an award-winning newspaper reporter for nearly a decade in various communities across Central Florida.