Relatives of a family matriarch whose remains were stolen from a mausoleum at a Catholic cemetery on Long Island renewed their pleas Tuesday for information leading to the return of the body.
Authorities also announced that the reward for the return of the woman's remains was now at $35,000.
"Nothing else is important to us," said Vincent Longo, one of 21 grandchildren of Mattia Filippazzo, whose body was taken last week from inside their family mausoleum at St. Charles Roman Catholic Cemetery.
The Italian immigrant from Valley Stream, who worked as a seamstress all her life, died in 1998 at the age of 88.
"All we want is to put her at peace as she wanted," Longo said. "The family has been devastated by this. I can't imagine anyone would have to go through something like this; it's mind-boggling."
Suffolk County Deputy Chief of Detectives Frank Stallone said police are reviewing video surveillance from various vantage points surrounding the massive 600-acre cemetery and pursuing leads in the case, but have not as yet made any arrests. He did not elaborate on the leads.
Police say the culprits vandalized two other mausoleums before entering the Filippazzo family mausoleum. They removed the woman's casket and left with her remains, leaving untouched the remains of her husband, Stefano Filippazzo. One theory is that the culprits jumped a nearby fence to gain entry to the cemetery. Police had no information on a possible motive.
District Attorney Thomas Spota said law enforcement officials throughout the county were working toward finding and returning the remains.
"That's what every one of us would want for any one of our relatives," he said.
Spota said those responsible for the theft would likely face a charge of desecrating a cemetery, a felony that carries a four-year prison term. He said while cemetery vandalism is a somewhat common occurrence, the theft of a body is "extremely rare." He rejected any suggestion that charges against those who stole the body would be dropped in exchange for the return of the remains.
"No way, not in this case," Spota said.
The cemetery, which opened in 1914, is operated by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn. It is bordered by Republic Airport to the west and a number of other large cemeteries to the east.
The Filipazzo family announced a $30,000 reward last week and Suffolk police said up to $5,000 in "CrimeStoppers" reward money was also being offered.
"Every moment, every phone call you get, you hope for positive news," Longo said. "We're just waiting for a phone call."