Cremains of 7 missing from Oak Ridge cemetery

The Oak Ridger, Tennessee/October 30, 2014

By Russel Langley

The cremated remains of seven people were reportedly stolen from the Oak Ridge Memorial Park sometime between October 2012 and December 2012.

An Oak Ridge Police Department report filed this week by David B. Sansom, who is connected to the cemetery, said an unknown suspect or suspects stole “seven human remains” from the park.

ORPD Capt. Robin Smith confirmed Wednesday afternoon that the remains were the ashes of seven people who had been encased in memorial benches at the cemetery.

In a telephone interview, Smith said some memorial benches at the cemetery on Bethel Valley Road were vandalized in October 2012. But those benches didn’t contain ashes. Cameras and gates were installed in December 2012 as a security measure against vandalism, he indicated.

“That’s why they (cemetery employees) didn’t think about it until they saw the report on grave robberies in Knoxville,” Smith said. “That made them check and they found the seven remains missing so they filed a report.”

On Oct. 17, WBIR-TV reported that 40 sets of cremated human remains were stolen from two cemeteries in Knoxville. Statements by Knoxville police officials to the TV station indicate there was no damage to any property in the cemeteries. For that reason, the story indicated, officials believe the suspect or suspects are familiar with the process of enclosing cremated remains within memorial benches.

“Obviously, the person or persons responsible, they knew what they were doing,” KPD spokesperson Darrell DeBusk said in the WBIR-TV news story. Smith said he believed the staff of Oak Ridge Memorial Park is in the process of notifying the affected families. The Oak Ridger attempted to reach David B. Sansom for comment Wednesday afternoon, but he was not available for comment.

New Jersey resident Rick Ross is reportedly recognized in the courts of 11 states and U.S. federal court as an expert on cult behavior, according to his website,

Contacted by the newspaper, Ross said the incidents at Oak Ridge Memorial Park are most likely “common vandalism,” rather than cult behavior.

“This is likely someone who has decided that ‘this is my thing,’” Ross said. “And likes seeing the media attention his actions bring.”

Ross said there are several religions that have rituals that call for remains such as voodoo, Santeria, and Santa Muerte. The first two are Caribbean religions and the third is the Mexican “Death Cult.” Ross said it is unlikely that the crimes in Oak Ridge were performed by legitimate practitioners of those religions.

He said there could be a third option.

“It could be someone who looked up these (religions’) rituals online and decided they wanted to try them,” he said.

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