Cemetery director grave in court appearance
BRIDGEPORT — Clearly Dale LaPrade was not happy to be in court Tuesday.
“Get away from me,” she growled at news reporters as her husband, Daniel LaPrade, pushed her wheelchair through the lobby of the Golden Hill Street courthouse at a fast clip.
“God will judge you,” Daniel LaPrade added.
Dale LaPrade, 64, the recently ousted director of the 140-year-old Park Cemetery, was making her first court appearance since her arrest for allegedly digging up old graves to reuse them for new burials.
She is charged with interference with a cemetery, a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
During the brief court appearance, Superior Court Judge Tracey Lee Dayton appointed a public defender for LaPrade who claims she is indigent. The judge continued the case to Jan. 14.
LaPrade, manager of the 140-year-old Lindley Street cemetery for the past 12 years, was arrested following an intensive investigation by police detectives Kimberly Biehn and Jorge Cintron based on a complaint made by Cheryl Jansen, formerly of Shelton, who has four generations of her family buried in the cemetery.
Jansen also successfully sued to get LaPrade removed as director of the cemetery.
During a civil court trial, Cintron and Biehn testified that dozens of headstones, some dating to the 1800s, had been moved at Park Cemetery so the newly dead could be buried in plots stacked on old graves.
“New dirt was put over older graves and new graves were put there,” Biehn testified.
“There was fresh soil over old head stones and they were in the process of building an access road through the stones,” Cintron testified. “In the woods we found old headstones and human bones that had just been thrown around.”
Cintron said a grave digger told him he had been ordered by LaPrade to throw old bones and caskets away to make room for new graves.
The arrest warrant affidavit states that LaPrade has been operating the cemetery as a for profit business in violation of state law, accepting and disbursing money collected from the sale of burial plots when a portion of the funds is supposed to be set aside for perpetual care.