VDOT searches for unmarked graves near I-64/I-264 interchange project

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NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Anthropologists with the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) believed they found at least one unmarked grave at the site of the Interstate 64/Interstate 264 Interchange Improvement Project on Wednesday.

The multi-phase, multi-million dollar project planned to ease congestion along the corridor includes adding a second exit lane on westbound I-64 to widen the ramp from westbound I-64 to eastbound I-264. 

VDOT has planned to build a gated, gravel road to access that section of the interchange for future inspections, beginning just north of the First Baptist Church in Norfolk along Kempsville Road. 

They decided to look deeper into the site, as it borders a small, family cemetery with 21 to 23 marked graves.

“We don’t often come across locations like this,” said David Forester, a VDOT spokesman. 

Using Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR), crews found abnormalities below the topsoil in 2017, which may indicate unmarked graves in addition to the cemetery. 

Wednesday, anthropological staff used a bulldozer with a smooth-edge bucket to remove the topsoil from the site and search for discoloration in the soil.

“Found evidence today of possibly one grave,” Forster said. “Think we found space on site if a grave does need to be moved.” 

Related: 300-year-old artifacts found during I-64/I-264 interchange construction

Historical records indicated that it’s a family cemetery and is unaffiliated with the nearby First Baptist Church of Norfolk, according to VDOT. Norfolk Property Records list the previous owner as “unknown.”

“We have some information about some of the people buried there a long time ago,” Forster said. “We haven’t found anyone so far who is a descendent of the family.”

The oldest of the graves belongs to Wilford K. Hawk (May 22, 1868 – June 14, 1935), according to VDOT. The most recent marked grave belongs to Love Riggs Masters (Sept. 27, 1889 – Nov. 2, 1956).

The cemetery does not meet required criteria for the National Register of Historic Places according to VDOT. 

However, a court order must be obtained to remove and relocate human remains, according to Virginia Code. Even still, the removal is completed as a “last resort” in the public interest.

VDOT doesn’t know yet if and when the remains will be removed. 

Stay on WAVY.com for updates. 

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