Of all the requests partners make of each other throughout their marriage, one of the most understandable takes place after their time on Earth is over. It’s not unusual for married couples to plan to be laid to rest side by side after they pass on. That’s the way it was going to be for longtime married couple Charles Bovenschen and his wife, Mary. Charles had already passed away, and all Mary wanted was to be buried next to him.
When Mary’s time came at the age of 88, her loved ones made sure her request would be fulfilled. All was going according to plan, and an empty plot had been saved right next to her husband. But as Mary’s funeral began, her family noticed something horrifying…
Like many couples, Charles Bovenschen and his wife Mary planned to be laid to rest next to one another when they passed. Having been together more than 50 years, their love was eternal, and that’s something they wanted to take into the afterlife.
When Charles passed away in 2006, he was buried at the Lincoln Memory Gardens in Whitestown, Indiana. A plot was left open next to his for Mary, who would live for another 12 happy years. But when her time finally came, her family was faced with an unsettling mystery…
When Mary passed on in early 2018, her daughter, Sandi Vasel, arranged for her mother’s burial next to her father. But just as soon as the funeral began, it was brought to a halt when Sandi and her family learned something no one could believe.
Charles’s casket was nowhere to be found. When the cemetery staff dug up Charles’s plot to bury his wife, they quickly realized it was missing. Understandably, the family was in shock. He’d been buried there for 12 years—how long was he missing?
Sandi was in utter disbelief. “I was kind of numb,” she said. “I looked at [the funeral director] and I said, ‘What you’re telling me is you don’t know where my dad is.’ And she says, ‘Yes, that’s what I’m telling you … yes, we don’t know where your dad is.”
There was no preparing Sandi for that moment. While she was grieving for her mother, now she was forced to experience the tragedy of losing her father all over again. Her shock was overwhelming.
“On that day, not only had I lost my mom but I lost my dad again—not spiritually, but physically,” Sandi explained. “When they opened the grave they didn’t find the shelf. The shelf is what would have been above my dad’s casket to lay my mother on.”
“My initial reaction was just shock. I just didn’t say a thing,” she explained after realizing her father’s remains were nowhere to be found. “Then I walked away, and I had to tell the rest of the family that dad was missing. Dad’s casket wasn’t there.”
That’s when Sandi learned that, since her father passed in 2006, the cemetery was under new ownership. Allegedly, there were numerous complaints made of the previous owners over the years, and they were definitely suspect in misplacing Charles’s casket.
Tragically, there wasn’t much the current cemetery owners could do to make Sandi feel any better. She couldn’t help but think about all the years she’d spent visiting what she thought was her father when really it was just an empty grave!
“[I] put winter blankets on the grave, put flowers on the grave, talked to him, and now it’s like I was talking to an empty grave,” Sandi recalled later. She’d be deceived in the worst way, and there was nothing she could do about it.
The current owners of the cemetery weren’t able to comment about the previous owner’s potential errors, though they did release a statement themselves. “We deeply apologize to the family and have immediately launched an internal investigation into the matter.”
Sandi tried to come up with an explanation. Had her father somehow been buried in someone else’s plot? And if that was the case, then did that also mean there were other families whose loved ones were in the wrong places?
The fact that Sandi wasn’t able to fulfill her parents’ final wish to be buried next to one another bothered her. Soon, she began to lose sleep, feeling as though she’d somehow failed them. “It was their desire to be buried together for eternity,” she said.
Finally, Sandi couldn’t take it anymore. She demanded that the cemetery staff locate her father’s remains. “I want them to find my dad. They need to find my dad, and they need to do it soon,” she said. “Their job is to protect their assets. Their assets are the people that are buried there and the family members.”
The cemetery owners’ folly ended up causing Sandi to delay her own mother’s burial. Instead, she insisted that he was found so they could still be buried next to each other—the way they intended.
While the staff said they were busy looking into the bizarre disappearance of Charles’s remains, all Sandi could do was wait for answers. “I don’t know when, it could be tomorrow, it could be next week, a month, who knows?” she said, completely devastated.
Then, a few long and anxious days later, the cemetery staff finally located Charles’s casket. It was placed in an unmarked grave just one row away from where it was supposed to be—something the officials were extremely apologetic for.
It was only then that Sandi began to feel at peace. Not only did she now know where her father’s remains were kept, but she was finally able to put her late mother to rest alongside her father.
Nothing could take back all the mental anguish Sandi went through to find her father’s remains. Still, she has since found peace in knowing that her parents will rest together for all of eternity! Unfortunately, not all stories have such a happy ending.
By all accounts, South Carolina’s Reggie and Carol Sumner’s love story was an unlikely one. They’d met in a North Charleston high school in the late 1950s, but life took them in separate ways for over 40 years. After so long, they never thought they’d see each other again.
Matthew Jenkins / Find a Grave
Those four decades weren’t easy. Early on, Reggie joined the Navy, and later, he did hard work for the railroad. Meanwhile, Carol escaped an abusive relationship in which she survived gunshots from her former husband.
Matthew Jenkins / Find A Grave
Reggie and Carol reunited by chance in their late fifties, and following a short love affair, they married. After years of struggles, violence, and hard work, they finally found happiness in each other. Their union should have been a thing of peace.
Matthew Jenkins / Find A Grave
And it was… right up until they met Tiffany Cole, who lived just a few houses away on their quiet South Carolina street. Right away, the Sumners took a liking to her. She just had that “Southern charm.”
The stepdaughter of the Sumners’ friend and neighbor, Tiffany was a Girl Scout, a high school cheerleader, and she played the flute. The Sumners even sold her a car when she reached her twenties, which turned into the biggest mistake of their lives.
Not long after selling Tiffany their Chevy Lumina, the couple moved south to Jacksonville, Florida. As Reggie’s health was deteriorating, they figured the warmer climate would be easier on him.
Tiffany, meanwhile, frequently drove down to the Sumners’ Florida home to make payments on the car they’d sold her. Sometimes, she’d even spend the night with her old neighbors. In 2005, though, she brought a special guest with her…
Tiffany brought her boyfriend, a 24-year-old named Michael Jackson, along with her on a visit to the Sumner family’s house in Florida. He ate with Reggie and Carol. He sat on their couch. And, ultimately, he realized something.
The older couple had some money. Reggie worked for CSX Railroad, and he and Carol had just made, according to Tiffany, a $100,000 profit on the sale of their South Carolina home. So Michael hatched a scheme.
Enlisting in the help of Alan Wade (pictured), as well as 19-year-old Bruce Nixon, Tiffany and Michael concocted a plan to rob the Sumners of their savings. Somehow, the little girl the Sumners had known so well was now trying to do them wrong…
On one July evening in 2005, Reggie and Carol had just settled in to enjoy a dinner of fried chicken when they heard a sudden knock at the front door. Curious, Carol headed over to see who it was.
Alan and Bruce—who were unfamiliar faces to the Sumners—were waiting on the doorstep. When greeted by Carol, they asked if they could use the telephone. Being a kind and unsuspecting soul, Carol let them inside.
Once inside, they pulled out a toy gun. They easily overpowered Reggie and Carol, bound their hands, and gagged them. Wasting no time at all, Alan and Bruce threw them into the trunk of a parked Lincoln Town Car.
kengikat40 / Flickr
Down the road, Tiffany and Michael were waiting in a rented Mazda. When their partners drove off—with Reggie and Carol in the trunk—they followed. If police happened to get too close to the Town Car, they were supposed to speed by, grabbing the cops’ attention.
The plan to thwart a tail by the cops wasn’t necessary, though. Both cars made it with ease to their destination, a remote part of Georgia just over the state line. It was a spot Tiffany and Michael had visited earlier that same day…
See, earlier that day, Michael, Tiffany, and their two accomplices had undertaken some manual labor. Tiffany later claimed she believed they were digging a hole to hide stolen goods, but the reality was far more sinister.
The quartet had been digging a grave. Once they reached the hole that night, they moved Reggie and Carol to its edge. Michael then offered them an ultimatum: hand over their account information or be buried alive.
This was not, as Tiffany claimed, the plan she’d signed up for. These people were once her friends—they were like grandparents. They’d sold her a car. She’d eaten dinner with them. To her relief, the Sumners agreed to pass over their account information, but it wasn’t enough…
The four pushed Reggie and Carol into the grave anyway. The elderly couple, bound and gagged, couldn’t fight back or flee as the group piled loose dirt into the grave. Soon, they were completely buried. Afterward, the group made a trip to the ATM.
Whether Tiffany truly didn’t know the Sumners would be buried alive may never be known. Not long after she and Michael drove away from the ATM, however, she did take a celebratory picture. Still, their crime spree wasn’t finished.
The next day, Michael and Tiffany returned to the Sumner home with bleach. They stole and pawned all of Carol’s jewelry. They also continued to make dozens of small withdrawals from the Sumners’ accounts around $200 and $300 each.
What they hadn’t planned for, however, was that someone might miss the Sumners. After her mother hadn’t checked in for several days, Rhonda Alford—Carol’s daughter from her first relationship—filed a missing person’s report.
Will Dickey / The Florida-Times Union
After noticing the odd spending, the police wisely left the Sumners’ accounts open. In doing so, they were able to track the group’s location. Authorities followed the criminals to a hotel room where they’d stashed stolen items—and promptly arrested them.
Bruce cooperated with the investigation, showing police the location where the Sumners had been buried. He also revealed a heartbreaking detail: while in the trunk of the Town Car, the Sumners managed to slip out of their bonds so they could hug each other. They were tied up again, but it was clear their love couldn’t be broken.
Matthew Jenkins / Find A Grave
Alan Wade, Michael Jackson, and Tiffany Cole all received the death penalty for their roles in the Sumners’ murders. Bruce received 45 years for cooperating. While nothing could bring Reggie and Carol back, at least justice was done.