DEER PARK, Wash. - A local family says they were devastated when they went to visit a deceased loved one's gravesite and found a man they do not know buried within the family plot they own. Shortly after our initial story on this heartbreaking mistake, the family of the man who was mistakenly buried in the double sold plot reached out to KHQ to share their grief over all this as well.
Sharon Hellman purchased three plots at Woodland Cemetery in 1976. Her son, Kevin, who passed in November of 1976 is already buried in one of them. A dear friend is in the second. The plot in the middle was supposed to be empty.
Sharon said she just wanted a nice space for the son that was taken far too soon.
"Even after all these years, he's still such a big part of my life," Sharon said about her son. "He was 17 years, six months, and 22 days old when he died."
Kevin was killed in a tragic accident. Sharon bought the three plots to ensure loved ones would be together. Kevin was on one side, the family friend was on the other.
That left the plot in the middle. One of Sharon's daughters said she wanted to be laid to rest next to her brother, whenever her time comes. That was the plan. One they didn't think much about until a visit on Memorial Day. That's when they saw a man named Joshua Matthew Cole had been buried in the plot they own.
"We saw this, someone in our spot," she said. "When I went home that night, I didn't sleep. I didn't sleep that night or the next night. I cried."
Joshua's family says they too are distraught over this.
"We can see where the other family is coming from, but we are innocent here too," said Joshua's sister Jessica Cole.
Joshua died in a shooting in Spirit Lake, Idaho earlier this year. The family has a Facebook page called "Justice for Josh" regarding the circumstances. They say prosecutors ruled the shooting of Joshua a justifiable homicide, and their grief has been overwhelming.
"This is so fresh, it's not barely over for us," Jessica said. "We're still grieving every day. Every single day."
She says her family paid a few thousand dollars for all the expenses associated with the service and burial.
"We go there all the time to visit him," Jessica said.
Jessica said they know, Joshua's body will likely be relocated to another part of the Woodland Cemetery in the coming weeks.
"I know it was probably an honest mistake, but I believe we are due compensation," she said.
They are hoping that includes the opportunity to pick out the new plot. They are requesting the cemetery give them the one next to it, free of charge. They say they will also ask to be reimbursed what they paid.
Those who help manage Woodland say the plot was double sold due to an unfortunate misread of records. They say they are working to make this right.