Fort Myers Cemetery locates missing grave site

Matt Grant

Photo: Video by fox4now.com

Fort Myers Cemetery locates missing grave site

CREATED Oct. 9, 2012

FORT MYERS - A nearly 50 year old mystery at the Fort Myers Cemetery may finally be solved.

Last Tuesday, David Johnson told us the Fort Myers Cemetery couldn't find where his grandfather was buried. A week later, the cemetery says they've identified the spot and Fox 4 was there as Johnson finally got to pay his respects.

"I'm shaking," said Johnson moments before seeing the grave site.

"Nervous?," asked Fox 4 reporter Matt Grant.

"Yeah," said Johnson.

After years of searching the cemetery trying to find his grandfather's plot, Johnson finally got the chance to say goodbye.

"This is where your grandfather Smoot Johnson is buried," said the cemetery's caretaker.

Johnson's grandfather, Smoot Baskum Johnson, raised him after his father abandoned him when he was young. His grandfather died when Johnson back in 1965, when he was 13 years old.

His death hit him so hard he didn't go to the funeral. He says it's because he didn't want to see his grandfather "in that box."

It's a decision he would regret. One that took him almost 50 years to work up the strength to properly say goodbye.

"He was just a hell of a man," said Johnson.

But when he tried to pay his respects three years ago, the city said they couldn't find where his grandfather was buried. That's because he didn't have a headstone which wasn't a cemetery requirement at the time.

The cemetery placed a pink ribbon at his grandfather's grave site. Johnson broke down in tears as he knelt down beside the grave.

"I'll see you one day," he said crying. "Hopefully."

"In a way it's a great relief," said Johnson afterward. "But yet it still hurts like hell...I've been crying for years over this."

The cemetery's caretaker used burial records to pinpoint the location of the grave site.

"Without a headstone how confident are you that this is the actual spot?," asked Grant.

"I only can go by the legal location," said Ivon Butcher Jr, the cemetery's caretaker. "And I'm confident about that location."

But Johnson isn't convinced and says he may never be.

"Do you feel that you finally got closure?," asked Grant.

"Yeah i hope so," said Johnson.

"You still have doubts?," asked Grant.

"If i seen him come up out of there," said Johnson, "I'd be confident then."

Cape Coral attorney Adam Stevens is looking into whether Johnson has a legal case against the city  for emotional distress.

Johnson wants to get his grandfather a proper headstone. At the moment, though, he says he can't afford one.

Matt Grant
mgrant@fox4now.com

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