Officials dig up Canton Township graves as part of Detroit missing person's cases

Authorities working to locate someone listed as missing

By Rod Meloni - Reporter, CFP ®, Derick Hutchinson

CANTON TOWNSHIP, Mich. - State and federal officials, along with Detroit police, are digging up graves at a Canton Township cemetery in connection with missing person cases out of Detroit.

Sky 4 captured video Wednesday afternoon of Michigan State Police officials, Detroit police officers and FBI agents digging at Knollwood Memorial Park in Canton Township.

Since 8 a.m. Wednesday, authorities have been digging up bodies of unidentified people, taking DNA samples from the bones and trying to match them to possible missing person's cases, police said.

Knollwood is a pauper's cemetery, which means unidentified bodies that go unclaimed are buried there by the medical examiner. It's been used for that purpose since 1995.

Over the years, there have been several missing person's cases that authorities are still trying to solve. They didn't have DNA evidence from many of the bodies in the cemetery, officials said.

Some of the bodies are connected to homicide cases, but the dig itself is not part of a criminal investigation, according to authorities. They're just collecting DNA from the bodies in the graves and trying to tie it to other cases, such as homicide cases, police said.

Operation UNITED

Detroit police said the dig is part of Operation UNITED (Unknown Names Identified Through Exhumatino and DNA). They're using new technology to identify unknown victims of homicide dating back to 1959, according to a release.

"Over the next few months, Detroit police and its partners will exhume unidentified homicide remains for the collection of DNA in efforts to identify the victims," Detroit police said in a statement.

The DNA will be sent to the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System and processed in a lab.

What we saw

Nine people in white suits and yellow boots were huddled around an open grave at the cemetery. Several tents were set up along the road into the cemetery, along with more than a dozen vehicles parked on the side of the road.

Another grave had been dug up nearby. On the other side of the cemetery, there was a grave open with an excavator nearby.

A few caskets appeared to have been placed near a blue tent.

Officials were seen unloading equipment from a trailer near the active grave site.

Click here to visit the NamUs website for missing person's cases.

Anyone who has a missing relative is asked to call the Detroit Police Department's Homicide Division at 313-596-2260 and re-report as a way to try to connect the unidentified bodies to cases.

Here's aerial video of the scene:

You can see several pictures from the scene below.

Officials examining a grave at Knollwood Memorial Park in Canton Township on May 22, 2019. (WDIV)

During a dig at Knollwood Memorial Park in Canton Township on May 22, 2019, caskets appeared to be placed under a blue tent. (WDIV)

A grave dug up at Knollwood Memorial Park in Canton Township on May 22, 2019. (WDIV)

Officials digging up graves at Knollwood Memorial Park in Canton Township on May 22, 2019. (WDIV)

Officials unloading equipment during a dig at Knollwood Memorial Park in Canton Township on May 22, 2019. (WDIV)

An empty grave at Knollwood Memorial Park in Canton Township on May 22, 2019. (WDIV)

Knollwood Memorial Park in Canton Township. (WDIV)

Here's the full release from Detroit police:

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