Relatives of a woman whose body was stolen from a Roman Catholic cemetery announced Thursday they are offering a $30,000 reward for the safe return of her remains.
"The taking of her body has shattered our peace, and the inability to know that our mother is at rest will haunt us until we can find her," Brooklyn attorney Stefano Filippazzo said in a statement on behalf of his family.
The remains of his grandmother, Mattia Filippazzo, were stolen from a mausoleum at St. Charles Cemetery in East Farmingdale on Long Island sometime between Monday night and Tuesday morning. The emigre from Italy was 88 when she died in 1998, her grandson said.
The culprits vandalized two other mausoleums before entering the Filippazzo family mausoleum, police said. They removed the woman's casket and left with her remains.
Police believe they hopped a nearby fence to get into the cemetery. Suffolk County Deputy Inspector Robert Brown said at a news conference earlier this week that cemetery vandalism was a somewhat regular occurrence, but stealing remains was "very uncommon."
A police spokeswoman said Thursday there were no new developments in the investigation.
Filippazzo described his grandmother as "an incredible woman who migrated to the United States from Italy because she truly believed in the power of the American dream." She worked as a seamstress and helped raise seven children.
"When we put our beloved to rest some 12 years ago, we knew her body was at peace," Filippazzo said. "As Catholics we believe that when we die we shall rest in peace forever. That is all that we ask for our mother and grandmother."
The cemetery, which opened in 1914, is operated by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn and encompasses nearly 600 acres. It is bordered by Republic Airport to the west and a number of other large cemeteries to the east.