NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — 11 previously unmarked graves have been successfully removed and relocated to make way for the I-64/I-264 interchange project.
In a release Friday, the Virginia Department of Transportation said the R.W. Baker & Company funeral home finished the relocation of the remains in late April in order to make way for the construction of a new access road.
Back in December, VDOT announced that using Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR), crews found abnormalities below the topsoil. Given there was already a nearby cemetery with more than 20 marked graves, more tests were done that did indeed indicate the presence of unmarked graves.
“11 graves we suspected, needed to be relocated and we relocated 11 locations, said Drew Forster, a spokesperson with VDOT.
Forster said researchers were never able to identify who was buried there. Virginia Code requires “good faith effort” to locate decedents and none were found. Historical records indicated that it’s a family cemetery, and Norfolk Property Records list the previous owner as “unknown.”
A Norfolk Circuit Court order was eventually issued to the department for the relocation.
“In most cases there was very little actual material found,” Forster said. “Pieces of handles to perhaps a coffin. You know, wood pieces, that type of thing.”
Forster said this was likely due to the age of the remains and the lack of modern containers. The most recent death of a person buried in the cemetery dates to the mid-1950’s.
Regardless, 11 new granite headstones at each of the previously unmarked graves have been placed throughout the existing cemetery.
“You know, we want to preserve our local history and pay respect to the dead,” Forster said.
The headstones all read “Unknown, moved at this site 2019.”