Police seek clues in case of stolen body

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The door to the Spinelli mausoleum in the Atlantic City Cemetery is padlocked after thieves broke into and sole the remains of Pauline Spinelli during the overnight hours of Thursday and Friday, July 26-27. Photo by R.J. Liberatore Jr.

PLEASANTVILLE – City police officials are shaking their heads and checking leads into the theft of a body from the Atlantic City Cemetery during the overnight hours of Thursday, July 26.


“When the call came in at 11 a.m., I couldn’t believe it,” said Pleasantville Police Capt. Rocky Melendez. “I had to see it for my own eyes.”

Between the evening of July 26 and the early morning hours of Friday, July 27, thieves stole the remains of Pauline Spinelli, who died in 1996 at age 98.

The thieves pried open the door, removed the locking mechanism, broke the marble covering and then removed her casket, he said.

“They were well prepared,” Melendez said. “They had the tools they needed.”

There are six internments in the mausoleum and the thieves probably targeted Spinelli’s remains because her casket was the easiest to get to, Melendez said. Inside there were three internments to either side of the door. Spinelli’s was on the bottom right.

“Obviously, even if it was spontaneous, they were purposeful in which one they picked,” Melendez said. “We are still trying to make heads or tails out of this and not leaving any options out of the way.”

The thieves may have targeted the Spinelli mausoleum because of its out-of-view location, he said.

The mausoleum is located toward the back of the cemetery and near the wood line, Melendez said.

“It’s pretty far back and out of the way,” he said. “During the day you may not see a vehicle back there and you definitely would not see a vehicle at night. It’s out of view from the roadway.”

There are no surveillance cameras or lights in the area.

Unfortunately, the thieves left little clues, Melendez said.

“There was nothing we could process and use,” he said.

Melendez said the police aren’t ruling out any motives for the crime, including rituals, prank or as an initiation.

“We performed an Internet search and found a few similar cases in the North Jersey area,” he said. “We are in the process of reaching out to those departments now.”

Unfortunately for city officials, the body snatching incident has garnered world attention for a city that continues to try to distance itself from negative publicity. FOX News, NBC10, and ABC-TV news programs as well as Internet sites such as www.whyamericansaredumb.com and www.freerepublic.com carried news of the story.

“We’ve had incidents at the cemetery, but it’s always been a matter of graffiti or something like that,” Melendez said. “We never had anything like this before.”

Unfortunately, this incident doesn’t show the residents “as the great people they really are,” Melendez said.

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