Police dig for unidentified Detroit homicide victims at Plymouth cemetery

Operation UNITED aims to identify homicide victims

PLYMOUTH, Mich. – Officials from several law enforcement agencies are exhuming bodies at a Plymouth cemetery, looking for DNA in a search for unidentified Detroit homicide victims.

The Detroit Police Department, Michigan State Police, the FBI and other agencies are working to get DNA samples from the bodies of homicide victims.

Wednesday's dig at United Memorial Gardens cemetery in Plymouth Township is an extension of the Operation UNITED program that started in May at the Knollwood Cemetery in Canton Township.

Here's video of the May 22 dig in Canton Township:

Police said they're looking for about two dozen victims at United Memorial Gardens. They have identified people in the paupers' graves and are trying to find bones from which they can get DNA.

The cases date back as far as 1959. Another homicide case dates back to 1967.

None of the bodies had been embalmed. They went unidentified in the morgue, were put in body bags and pine boxes, and buried at the cemetery.

"It's hard to work a homicide case when you don't have the name of your victim," said Sgt. Shannon Jones, of the Detroit police homicide unit. "The goal today is to not only discover the names of who these people are -- I'm sure some of them are going to be people who are reported missing. They may be from here. They may be from another state. That, I don't know. Once the results start coming back, giving us some names and identifications, then we can bring some closure to families, along with trying to do some work on the homicide case."

Detroit police want to hear from anyone who believes they have a family member in one of the graves, such as a missing person or homicide victim.

Police said the last time they asked for calls, they only got one. They believe there are many other people who could be involved.

Police will return to the cemetery Thursday for the second and final day of this part of the operation.

You can listen to Jones' full comments in the video below:

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