EXCLUSIVE: Two rifle shell casings found at the graves of a North Arlington police officer’s two sons in Holy Cross Cemetery were deliberately put there by a pair of well-meaning grave diggers, Chief Louis Ghione told CLIFFVIEW PILOT tonight.
“They knew the officer’s name and assumed two spent shells they found near the graves belonged there,” Ghione said. “So they put them at the foot of the headstone.
“When they heard that we were looking into where the shells came from and why they would be put there, they immediately went to their superintendent and foreman,” the chief said.
The supervisors then told detectives who came to the cemetery to follow up on the discovery what happened, he said.
“They thought they were doing the family a favor,” Ghione said. “Two shell casings — they figured they belonged with the graves.”
The discovery was somewhat alarming at first.
As CLIFFVIEW PILOT first reported, North Arlington police were contacted by a family remember who reported finding the casings at the base of the headstone.
Officer Anthony Abilio, a 14-year veteran of the department, buried two sons who died from complications related to Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA), a disease that causes muscle degeneration and weakness and often leads to death, in Holy Cross. One died in July 2001 and the other in October 2004 (A third child with the disease is paralyzed and must remain on a ventilator).
The graves are near a 9/11 memorial and an area where police officers are buried.
“Twenty-one gun salutes happen there often,” Ghione told CLIFFVIEW PILOT , adding that the “ceremonial” bullets weren’t fired recently.
“The rounds were weathered, so they could have been on the ground for awhile,” he said.
From the start, the chief said, he was hoping it was an innocent mistake but treating the circumstances very seriously. If someone had deliberately placed the casings there as some type of threat, he originally warned yesterday, they would be found and prosecuted.
“This agency takes seriously any direct or implied threats to any of our officers and will take all actions necessary to protect our officers and their family members,” Ghione added.
Given the outcome, the chief said tonight, he was feeling relieved.
Click here to sign up for Daily Voice's free daily emails and news alerts.