The recent uncovering of a gravestone in the backyard of a residence in Lawndale, California, could derail plans to expand Los Angeles light rail through the town.
This week, Lawndale resident Jay Gould, who had heard rumors of graves in his yard and the yards of his neighbors from his father, dug a hole in the yard of his next-door neighbor Josh Standifer.
Almost immediately, less than three inches deep, he hit stone.
Mr. Gould had hit the gravestone of Earle Hoffman, replete with a Star of David and mention of Hoffman’s service as a member of standby ready reserve forces in the U.S. Navy during WWII, as seen in photos of the gravestone uploaded by multiple local news outlets.
“I grabbed a shovel and I started digging. I felt relieved. I knew it was there. I had to prove it to myself and everyone,” Mr. Gould told the Los Angeles Times. The finding of the stone could mean more are buried nearby.
“His father told him about an old World War II graveyard. There’s up to 17 bodies,” Mr. Standifer told KCAL-TV.
If human remains are found beneath the stone, they would be protected by the California Health and Safety Code. Those protections could prevent one of the two routes from being considered by the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transit Authority for the expansion of its light rail C-Line.
Mr. Gould and Mr. Standifer’s houses sit next to a freight rail line. The rail line and their yards are in the right-of-way of one of the routes being considered to link the Redondo Beach light rail station and the Torrance Transit Center that opened in June. LA Metro officials have scheduled a vote on which route to take for 2024.
“If it is confirmed the potential burial site is on Metro property, Metro would use on-call archeological and paleontological experts to determine if there are human remains. If human remains are discovered, Metro will follow the California Health and Safety Code provisions,” LA Metro spokesperson Patrick Chandler told the LA Times.
Lawndale City Manager Sean Moore told the Easy Reader newspaper “There is at least one grave between the two properties. At least one headstone has a marking, and there are potentially two more headstones. We’re not sure. It looks like these graves are on the Metro right-of-way, but I’m not a surveyor.”
Hoffman’s surviving family, on the other hand, want to know why his gravestone is in a yard in Lawndale, miles away from where he was supposed to have been buried.
Hoffman’s obituary in the now-defunct Venice Evening Vanguard newspaper says he died suddenly at 25 on Dec. 14, 1951, and that memorial services were held at the Hillside Memorial Park, where his other gravestone remains.
“I thought this was an AI scam. In our mind, he has been buried at Hillside since two days after he passed away. I have been visiting his gravesite since I was a little kid,” Cory Cohen, Hoffman’s nephew, told the LA Times.
Mr. Cohen added to KCAL-TV that the situation was “extremely bizarre” and that the family is “very interested to find out what is going on.”