BUTLER (KDKA) — You might call it “grave business.”
What happened in North Side Cemetery just off North Main Street in Butler, could have been lifted from the pages of the latest best-selling mystery.
North Side Cemetery has been a fixture since it opened its gates in 1800 – nearly 9,000 burials from prominent bankers to Civil War soldiers.
What cemetery manager George Olenic came upon Monday morning was an open grave set among the older burial plots under an ancient oak tree scarred by lightning – all, but empty.
“Back then everything was in wood boxes – they didn’t have the cement vaults and naturally everything would be disintegrated,” he said.
The grave is exactly 100 years old. Butler’s four newspapers from that era tell the story of Walter Roberts, a 12-year-old boy hit by a train on Aug. 3, 1911.
One paper describes Walter, “Calling for his mother,” as he was dying in a hospital.
“Never seen anything like this,” Ronnie Ealy, long time caretaker, said.
He said the grave must have been dug by hand. It measures 2x4x5.
“And they dug straight down there past that root and everything,” Ealy said. “And I stepped down in the hole and the only thing you could see was from here to my head. That’s how deep that hole was.”
“It is a bizarre case,” Butler Police Chief Timothy Fennell said, showing the only item recovered from the grave – a piece of engraved metal – likely a coffin ornament.
But he’s being bombarded with lots of theories.
“Everything from somebody wanting to bury something else there to was some kind of treasure buried there on top of the grave later, college pranks and of course cults,” Fennell said.
“So really, the mystery is, ‘Why they did it? What they were after?’” Olenic added.
If you have any information as to who might have disturbed Walter Roberts, contact Butler Police.