DEER PARK, Wash. - A local family says they were devastated when they went to visit a deceased loved one's gravesite at a local cemetery and found a man they do not know buried within their family plot.
Sharon Hellman says she purchased three plots 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.
"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."
She reached out to Woodland management for answers.
"I showed them the deed, yeah," she said.
Leonard Murphy, who maintains the grounds but does not manage them, says his understanding is that this was an error with their records.
"This could have been sold by one of the people who were here years ago and suddenly, it's a big mistake that's come up," he said.
One he says is rare.
"I've never seen something like this in the three years I've been here," he said.
He's hopeful, and so is Sharon, that a respectful solution for all involved can be found soon.
"I feel bad that someone else has to take their loved one and have them moved, but this isn't theirs," she said.
The family reached out to KHQ's Hayley Guenthner saying, "help me Hayley" after they say the cemetery was not working with them toward a fix. Hayley immediately reached out to those who make the decisions for the facility. She was told Woodland is run by volunteers and this was an unfortunate misread of records. Right now, they are working to connect with the family members of the man who was mistakenly buried in the wrong spot. They say plans are in motion to honor Sharon's request to relocate him to a different part of the grounds.