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Las Animas County Coroner accused of improper burials after several bodies were found in one grave

LAS ANIMAS COUNTY, Colo. (KRDO) - A cemetery just outside Trinidad, Colorado is calling for a state investigation into improper burials after allegations that the Las Animas County Coroner buried multiple bodies on top of each other in a single grave.

Several bodies were discovered at the Starkville cemetery in Las Anima County. That's just south of Trinidad.   

Earlier this year, a woman from Oklahoma found out her long-lost father was buried here in Trinidad and she wanted to exhume his body and take it back home. The only problem is they found another unknown body in the grave with him.

According to public records obtained by KRDO13 Investigates, the Las Animas County coroner has buried four bodies in the Starkville cemetery. But the owner of the cemetery, Carl Maestas, says the coroner never provided a required burial permit for any of them. 

It wasn’t until a body was exhumed this past September that Maestas realized there were bodies in the cemetery that he didn’t know about.

Maestas told KRDO13 Investigates the Las Animas County coroner won't give him the information about who the bodies are or how they got there.

“I'm going to need those permits, I said. The second thing is I need the identities of these bodies. These are human beings, they are entitled to the dignity of a proper burial, and they are entitled to have their graves marked. And I want the identity of those bodies," Maestas said.

KRDO13 Investigates reached out to the Las Animas County coroner about the alleged improper burials but he declined to comment.

Now, Maestas is calling for a formal investigation to understand what happened and figure out if more unknown bodies are buried in the cemetery.

KRDO13 Investigates reached out to the Colorado Bureau of Investigations, the Attorney General's office, and state regulators about a potential investigation. We are still awaiting a response. 

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Quinn Ritzdorf

Quinn is a reporter with the 13 Investigates team. Learn more about him here.

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Emily Arseneau

Emily is the Digital Content Director for KRDO NewsChannel 13 Learn more about her here.


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