KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- An historic cemetery in Kansas City helped unravel a 155-year-old mystery. Now, a team effort is helping put a disturbing crime to rest.
"We bury our dead. We put them in mausoleums. But really, we keep them in our heart, and you can't desecrate that," said John Weilert, board of trustees member at Elmwood Cemetery.
But someone did desecrate one of Elmwood's family tombs.
"We had noticed that one of the windows on the doors to the mausoleum had been pushed out. On initial inspection, it didn't appear that anything was taken," Weilert said.
It wasn't until later, during routine clean-ups, a volunteer stumbled upon a small, smashed up box and almost threw it away before calling Weilert to come check it out.
"It was very old, and so under the circumstances, we thought, let's see what it is," Weilert said.
KCPD responded and immediately called in the Jackson County Medical Examiner's Office. Testing ultimately determined that tiny, crushed box held a little girl under the age of two.
"That led us to take a look at a number of possibilities, and one of them was the Huling mausoleum. And the fact the window had been pushed out caused us some concern," Weilert said.
Enough evidence was found to make a match.
The little girl was identified as 11-month-old Emma Huling who died way back in 1865. She was put into the mausoleum decades later after the family settled in Kansas City.
But someone disturbed her resting place.
The cemetery opened the mausoleum spot where Emma should have been, and her casket was gone. You could see the outline of where her casket should have been, and it was a perfect match to the crushed casket that was found.
"I just cannot comprehend why anybody would do a thing like that. It just defies imagination, but we're fortunate we were able to identify Emma," Weilert said.
Speaks Chapel of Independence learned about Emma's story and is now determined to restore her resting place.
"We're putting her back where she belongs with her family and making things right by her," Speaks Chapel funeral director Tara Havard said.
Speaks is donating a new casket. Havard even hand-knitted a memorial blanket and headpiece for Emma.
A public memorial and re-internment is planned later this month, bringing closure to a mystery more than a century in the making.
"It's bringing peace to a lot of people," Havard said.
Kansas City police are still looking for whoever desecrated the Huling grave. If you have any information, call KCPD or the TIPS Hotline at 816-474-TIPS.
A public memorial for Emma Huling is planned for April 27 at 11 a.m. at the Elmwood Cemetery Chapel.
Everyone involved in solving the mystery is hoping by sharing Emma's story, descendants of the Huling family might come forward and shed more light on her and her family.