CRANSTON, R.I. (WPRI) — When Robert Cabral saw an open, empty casket inside the condemned Roger Williams Park Mausoleum, his heart dropped.
“I’m thinking to myself, ‘what would I ever do if I found out that one of their caskets was opened, taken out of there, desecrated?'”
Cabral’s parents, Manuel and Beatrice Cabral, were laid to rest in the Cranston mausoleum. Cabral’s grandparents and aunt are also interred there.
“It’s been 15 years since I’ve been able to go in to visit them,” he added. “Hopefully they haven’t been touched.”
Manuel Cabral was a World War II veteran and Purple Heart recipient.
“You’ve got a vet that’s stuck in there with his wife and nobody will do nothing,” Cabral said.
Over the years, Cabral has tried to retrieve his family’s remains but the cost was too steep. At one point, he said he received estimates topping $10,000 per body.
“I have to somehow solve this problem before something happens to me,” he said. “I’m getting older, and I’m the only child.”
Now, Cabral says he has renewed hope following a recent Target 12 investigation.
As Target 12 reported last month, House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello was approached by Annette Berarducci, whose family operates two funeral homes in Rhode Island. Berarducci said her family has a plan to remove hundreds of bodies trapped inside the mausoleum.
“It has to be addressed, and the sooner the better,” Berarducci told Target 12. “That’s desecration of human remains.”
Kasim Yarn, Rhode Island’s director of veterans’ affairs, vowed to help. Yarn’s words echoed in Cabral’s ears.
Though the Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Exeter cannot pay for disinterment or transportation costs, it will cover the cost of burials for eligible veterans—veterans like Cabral’s dad.
“There was no movement, and your story just brought it all back up to life again,” Cabral said. “I’m hoping the momentum will keep going now.”
“It would mean everything,” he added. “It would mean closure because right now, this is a nightmare.”
Cabral has been in touch with Berarducci and the Office of Veterans Affairs.