Detroit family devastated after robbery of father's gravesite

Family calls Local 4 Defenders, hopes whoever took lion statue will return it

DETROIT – Catherine Sanders said her family is devastated after she said someone robbed her husband's gravesite.

Joe Sanders Jr., who died four years ago, was a lifelong Detroit Lions fan. He was known as the "lion man" to his family, who erected a white lion statue on his tombstone.

"The lion represents my husband," Sanders said. "It's pride, honor, courage, family. It's also to overlook and protect not only him, but his mother who's (lying) at rest next to him."

Sanders visits her husband's grave often with her two children, Joelle, 16, and Joe, 10. She said someone took the lion statue over Thanksgiving weekend. She believes that whoever took it planned the theft because the statue weighs over 500 pounds.

"This is somebody that just didn't jump the fence, take it off and jump back over the fence. They had to come in and literally remove this," Sanders said.

"You've disrespected not only my husband but myself ... his children, his family, the entire Sanders family and all of his friends. And seriously, the ... city of Detroit. He meant the world to me, and just losing that was just like losing another piece of my heart."

Sanders and her two children want the statue back. It's valued at about $1,800.

"(It) just really made me upset, and I wanted to find this person," Joe Sanders aid.

"How low could you be to steal something away from us and him?" Joelle Sanders said. "This is a cemetery, so this is a place of peace and tranquility and love, and you come here to respect the dead and not to take away  what we come here to see and remember him."

Forest Lawn Cemetery told Local 4 that it cannot discuss information about families whom it helps.

Sanders filed a police report. She said police recommended that she get her own insurance for the statue in case anything like this happens again.

Sign up for ClickOnDetroit Email Newsletters (click here) for more stories like this.

About the Author: