Kin appeal for return of stolen remains

August 31, 2010 2:44:19 PM PDT
A week after the body of a family matriarch was stolen from a mausoleum inside a Catholic cemetery on Long Island, relatives and law enforcement officials are making another public appeal for the safe return.

The family has offered a $30,000 reward and police say they will kick in up to $5,000 more for information about the crime.

Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota said Tuesday the culprits could face up to four years in prison if convicted of desecrating a cemetery. He noted that while cemetery vandalism is a somewhat common occurrence, the theft of a body is "extremely rare."

The remains of Mattia Filippazzo were stolen last week from a mausoleum at St. Charles Cemetery in East Farmingdale.

Her family says the Italian immigrant was 88 when she died in 1998.

Mattia and Stefano Filippazzo achieved the American dream. She worked as a seamstress, he was a laborer.

"She came to this country at a young age and she built a nice life for herself and for us," said grandson Vincent Longo.

The Sicilian immigrants saved up for a family mausoleum, so the couple could rest in peace together.

"Her eternal peace has been disrupted by these, nothing to say but animals," said family spokesperson Anthony Como.

Last Tuesday morning, groundskeepers at St. Charles Cemetery found Filippazzo's casket had been removed from the locked iron door of the mausoleum, pulled out from crypt, and her body-stolen.

Investigators are looking at surveillance video from and following a few leads, but they're hoping a the reward will help find the thieves.

"Whatever you think might not be significant, may very well be significant to the Suffolk Count Police Department. So don't hesitate to call us. It may be something that you don't think is important, we may think it's important," said D.A. Spota.

The Diocese of Brooklyn says the thieves broke into two other mausoleums before they were able to open Mrs. Filippazzo's crypt.

"We solely want to put her at peace, as she wanted. The family is has been devastated by this. I can't imagine that anyone would have to go through something like this, it's just mind boggling," adds Longo.