Headstone needs a home

NORCROSS - Gwinnett County police have found themselves in a rather strange predicament: the department has had a headstone sitting in the property room for about seven months and they don't know what to do with it.

Police Department spokesman Cpl. Darren Moloney said officers were called to the intersection of Buford Highway and Pittman Circle about 12:47 p.m. Oct. 20 to find a cemetery headstone lying near the road.

"The stone is so massive, five men couldn't move it by themselves," Moloney said. "So, it looks as though it fell off a tuck. It was laying close to the road covered with shrubs ... it's very odd."

Moloney said the finding does not appear to be the result of any criminal activity.

Since the headstone was found, Moloney said officers have not received calls reporting a missing stone or damage to a cemetery.

The words on the stone are faded due to natural wear of the stone. Moloney said the name "Ball" and the dates Jan. 14, 1873, to Jan. 24, 1919, are the only readable words on the stone. There is an inscription that is too faded to read, Moloney added.

Moloney said police are hoping someone will contact them about the strange find, but are still unsure if the stone even belongs to someone in the Gwinnett County area.

Becky Thomas, office manger for the Eternal Hills Memory Gardens cemetery in Snellville, said she doesn't remember hearing of the incident.

"I don't know how that could have happened. I've never heard of anything like that happening before," Thomas said. "It's just weird."

She said refurbishing would be the only reason a headstone would be moved, but said that does not happen often.

"They'd (the headstones) have to be sent back to the manufacturer, and people don't like to do that because the stones have to be dug up," Thomas said.

Thomas said most headstone manufacturers are somewhat of a haul from Gwinnett County. She said the closest manufacturer she deals with is in Elberton.

Moloney said the fate of the headstone is unknown. Because the department's property room has limited space with that space reserved mainly for items connected to criminal investigations, Moloney said the item will be kept in the room as long as possible, but if no one claims the stone it will be destroyed or possibly auctioned.

"We see abandoned property a lot, but this was pretty unique," Moloney said. "Right now it's taking up space in the property room. There's no hurry, but we do want to get rid of it. It could be destroyed or auctioned off, but I don't know who'd want it or if the county would even do that."

Those who believe the stone may belong to their family, or anyone with information about the stone is asked to call the Police Department's evidence message line at 770-513-5232.

Moloney said anyone who believes the stone may belong to their family member will be questioned before the item is released.

"It shouldn't be too difficult, with some questioning, to determine if the stone belongs to a person or not. It's usually pretty obvious if someone is lying."