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Cemetery manager ousted

November 29, 2018

BRIDGEPORT - Park Cemetery’s embattled manager, pushed into the courtroom Thursday morning in a wheelchair, promised a judge that she will no longer conduct any business there.

“I’ve stayed away, I’ve been trying to get out of the cemetery for 10 years. I’ve been ill,” Dale LaPrade told Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis.

The judge then ordered her to stay away from the cemetery.

“We accomplished what we wanted, that she (LaPrade) not serve in any capacity at the cemetery,” said Cheryl Jansen, who has generations of family buried at the Lindley Street cemetery and sued to remove LaPrade.

LaPrade has been accused of burying new bodies over old graves and moving headstones to accommodate new graves at the 140-year-old cemetery.

During a previous court hearing, police detectives Jorge Cintron and Kimberly Biehn testified that dozens of headstones, some dating back to the 1800s, had been moved so that 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 head stones and human bones that had just been thrown around.”

Cintron said a grave digger told him that he had been ordered by LaPrade to throw old bones and caskets away to make room for new graves.

But during Thursday’s hearing before Judge Bellis, LaPrade, who had previous ignored two orders to come to court, said she had only buried families together with permission.

Bellis ordered LaPrade to stay away from Park Cemetery except to visit family members interned there.

“This is a final order and believe me I will enforce it,” the judge said.

The judge also ordered LaPrade to turn over the financial records of the cemetery to police who are investigating the situation there. When LaPrade responded that she would need to go back to the house on the cemetery grounds to get the records, the judge retorted that she could only do so with a police escort.

Initially LaPrade told the judge that she has been living in the house and would need two weeks to remove her personal property. But after a recess, and a reminder from Jensen that LaPrade actually lives in Stratford, LaPrade asked to change the record.

“I’m not known as a liar,” LaPrade told the judge. “I came to the cemetery in 1985 and I had been living in the house but now there are two homeless men living there.”

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