NBC 10 I-Team: City of Cranston meets with state on mausoleum mess
Aerial shot of an abandoned mausoleum in Cranston. Inside the conditions are worsening, but a solution is not simple finds the NBC 10 I-Team. (WJAR)

It's a disgrace for the living and the dead: some 400 bodies trapped inside an abandoned mausoleum that's literally falling apart.

On Monday, there were some signs of progress as a team from the city of Cranston met with the Rhode Island Department of Administration to work on a solution.

For those whose relatives were laid to rest at the Roger Williams Mausoleum, on the edge of Roger Williams Park, the problem hits close to home.

Mary Alyce Gasbarro moved her aunt, Jeannette, her uncle, Dr. Henry Jacobs, the founder of Bryant University, his first wife, Harriet, and their children to the Swan Point Cemetery in Providence from the mausoleum in 2015.

She was one of the last people to remove relatives from the dilapidated building to make sure they would have a safe and secure final resting place.

"I remember Uncle Harry and Aunt Jeanette, and they were good people. They didn't deserve that treatment," Gasbarro said.

Aerial shot of an abandoned mausoleum in Cranston. Inside the conditions are worsening, but a solution is not simple finds the NBC 10 I-Team. (WJAR)

The complicated process to remove and rebury the family cost about $30,000 and required multiple permits and new death certificates, she said.

"They had to bring in a contractor with a jackhammer," Gasbarro said, describing the interior of the mausoleum as "a biohazard."

From 2005: NBC 10's Audrey Laganas reported on the Roger Williams Mausoleum's abandonment.

As the NBC 10 I-Team has reported, things at the mausoleum have only gotten worst since the building was declared abandoned more than 10 years ago.

No one owns it. The last owner died in 2003 without leaving the funds needed for upkeep. Fencing has been ripped down and plywood cut from windows, allowing trespassers to break in and record themselves on video. Some have opened caskets. Others have stolen the bronze plaques from tombs.

"Most of them are still there, and it's very sad," Gasbarro said of the remaining bodies.

The big question going forward is how to pay for a solution. The cost to move the bodies still inside is estimated at $500,000, according to Andrew Correia, a local funeral director who stepped in to help.

He found a cemetery willing to provide land for burials and a company that could provide vaults for a steep discount.

A porous chainlink fence is supposed to keep people out, but the NBC 10 I-Team found numerous avenues to enter. (WJAR){{ }}

The cost for the city of Cranston to build a new fence would be about $20,000,  but it wouldn't solve the larger problem.

After the NBC 10 I-Team showed what we found to Mayor Ken Hopkins, he and his team met with state officials on Monday.

"Something has to happen for these people," Gasbarro said. "They put their faith and trust in a private entity, and it didn't work out. And it's not their fault."

NBC 10 News will continue to follow the story going forward.

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