A veteran's ashes dumped in the trash? Volunteer detectives get to work
CREATED Aug. 28, 2013
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - A puzzling story that disturbed veterans' advocates takes a twist and ends in relief months later. Why would someone apparently dump an urn with a veteran’s ashes in a trashcan? It turns out no one did.
KGUN9 News first reported in September 2012 someone found the urn wrapped in military-grade flag in southwest Tucson. Read or watch the original story.
Was it stolen or neglected? Investigators didn’t know at the time.
A few clues offered hope of tracking down a rightful owner. The urn was in a gym bag with the name “R. Sotelo” written on it, Tucson police reported, and pictures and letters were stuffed in the bag.
KGUN9 contacted the Missing in America Project in Arizona, which properly buries veterans’ remains.
For the next few months, volunteers at the organization worked to solve the mystery with the motivation of giving a possible veteran the appropriate burial.
"It's real close to detective work,” said member Ed Torres.
Torres said they took the ashes to a local funeral home, which determined the ashes actually are those of an animal -- a pet's.
"It's a relief to find out a veteran's ashes weren't thrown in the trash can,” Torres said. "I think it's great we found out the ashes weren't a veterans."
By “asking questions here and there,” volunteers also found the daughter of “R. Sotelo,” who lives out of state. Tucson Police Department Sgt. Martin Broderick reported the property had been returned.
Broderick said a family member apparently neglected the items, and they somehow ended up in the trash.
He said the department didn’t have any pictures of the urn.
Meanwhile, Torres said Missing in America Project volunteers are preparing to properly bury the remains of at least 44 veterans in October in Sierra Vista.