POSTED: Friday, February 22, 2013 - 8:21am
UPDATED: Friday, February 22, 2013 - 8:22am
BROOKS COUNTY, TX (NEWS CENTER 23) — Body found, grave dug.
Body found, grave dug.
It's become the cycle in Brooks County; and it isn't slowing down.
One hundred twenty-nine dead immigrants in just one year. It's the worst scenario Brooks County officials could ever imagine, but it's a reality.
"Yes ma'am, I have been with the department for 17 years, this being the highest body count we have ever had. I believe the closest to it would be like 70-some bodies. And that was in '09," said Inv. Daniel Davila, Brooks County Sheriff's Department.
Once a body is found, deputies must make sure there is no foul play. From there, the local justice of the peace or county judge Raul Ramirez must come and declare the body as dead.
"Then the local mortician is contacted. So they can actually go out there and pick up the body, put it into a body bag and then transfer it into Falfurrias," said Raul Ramirez, Brooks County Judge. "And then from here it will be transported to Mission, Texas to the Elizondo mortuary."
The claimed bodies are then sent back to their families, but the unclaimed bodies must come back to Brooks County.
"They are buried in our Brooks County Cemetery and they are assigned a number and a little plaque, and it is 'unknown.' But we also store their DNA," said Ramirez.
The DNA is kept in hopes that eventually these people will be identified and returned to their families and country of origin.
But there is a problem, after last years high numbers remaining grave space is gone. There is literally no more ground space for any additional plots.
A letter from the cemetery manager pleads for Ramirez to find more room. Somewhere. Anywhere.
Ramirez believes there is really only one possible solution, build a bigger cemetery or build a new one.
"Basically what it would be, it would be like an unknown cemetery for unknowns. And we would have to get clearance; there are a lot of technical things that we would have to do. We would have to fence it, we would have to plot it, you would have to ask permission from the state, it not as simple as just opening a cemetery, you don't just do it," said Ramirez.
The even more controversial part is the bill. Several hundred thousand dollars have been spent on these unknown bodies.
"I have been asked, how do my constituents feel about us spending so much money on this? And I say, it is the right thing to do," said Ramirez.
So where does the money come from?
"It all falls on the county coffers," said Ramirez.
And with no immediate solution in sight, the unclaimed bodies of Brooks county will continue to be the burden of the county residents.