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Family Outraged after Loved One's Urn Stolen

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DONNA – A Rio Grande Valley family already coping with loss has one more issue on their plate.

Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office is investigating what happened to their loved one’s grave site after he was buried.

The Alamo family dug up the urn of their deceased brother, former Border Patrol agent Juan Valenzuela, on Saturday. He passed away in 2003.

Eloisa Marez said they planned to re-bury the urn with their mother, who passed away Saturday.

“It was her last wishes to be buried with him,” Marez said.

Before her mother died, Marez said she left specific instructions to have her son’s urn placed in her casket and re-buried in the same plot. But when the family disinterred his remains, they found the urn was missing.

Marez showed CHANNEL 5 NEWS pictures of his service where a wooden urn containing Valenzuela’s ashes, marked with a soldier. The urn was placed into a protective plastic box before it was buried at Val Verde Memorial Gardens in Donna.

When Marez returned to the cemetery Saturday, she was disturbed when an employee placed a black box in front of her.

“I said, ‘What’s this?’” explained Marez. “She said, ‘This is your brother.’ I said, ‘No, my brother was in an urn.’ She goes, ‘No ma’am, this was the only thing that was in the box, this bag.’”

Marez said the situation is confusing to her family.

CHANNEL 5 NEWS reached out to Val Verde Memorial Gardens several times, but they declined to comment.

Meanwhile, Marez said her family continues to wonder what happened.

“Are there more people that this has happened to? They go back and dig up the caskets and open them?” she questioned.

The family said they want justice and answers.

The Texas Funeral Service Commission said it’s illegal to disinter an urn or casket without getting authorization from the family first. Once that authorization is given, a permit is needed from a local municipality to dig up remains.  

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