"My dad used to tell us there's a graveyard out there with 17 dead," said Jay Gould.
On Wednesday, he went digging for proof, and to the surprise of his neighbors, Gould unearthed a shallow grave. The headstone indicates that Earl Hoffman, a Jewish World War II veteran, died on December 14, 1951.
Gould recalls that around 20 years ago, his neighbor stumbled upon a burial site while planting trees. The neighbor promptly informed Gould, and together they reached out to the then Mayor of Lawndale. According to Gould, the Mayor responded by advising them to remain silent, cautioning that revealing the graves could lead to the destruction of their properties. The Mayor emphasized that the graves should never be disturbed. Consequently, everyone involved decided to keep the discovery a secret. Gould is now the sole survivor with this knowledge.
When Metro unveiled plans to construct the C-line extension through their Lawndale neighborhood, Gould decided to speak out and inform everyone about the buried bodies in their backyards. However, his claims were met with disbelief.
Expressing his frustration, Gould stated, "I don't lie, I don't drink," as he broke down emotionally. He faced accusations of dishonesty and encountered a lack of empathy from his neighbors.
Chelsea Schreiber, a fellow resident, shared her perspective, saying, "It was difficult for me to witness because Jay has been raising this issue for so long, and no one has taken him seriously."
Though there had always been rumors circulating about bodies buried in the area, tangible evidence had remained elusive until now. The residents are now hopeful that this discovery will put an end to Metro's expansion plans.
Reflecting on the grave marker, Lawndale resident Josh Standifer expressed his aspirations, stating, "I hope this young man will help us ensure that this train never passes through Lawndale, allowing him to rest peacefully."
In response to the discovery, Metro issued the following statement: "On Sept. 28, Metro was notified by the City of Lawndale that yesterday, a resident discovered a headstone on or adjacent to the Metro-owned Right-of-Way (ROW) that is currently under consideration as an alternative alignment for Metro's C (Green) Line to Torrance project. The City Manager indicated that he was contacting the Los Angeles Sheriff Department and suggested that Metro may need to investigate as well."
The California Health and Safety Code, specifically Sections 7050.5, 7051, and 7054, contains explicit provisions for safeguarding human burial remains and outlines the procedures to be followed in case of the discovery of Native American skeletal remains. As per the established protocol, the LA County Coroner assumes the lead role in assessing potential burial sites. In light of the recent finding, Metro is collaborating with the Environmental Department and the LA Coroner's office to arrange a site visit and obtain a comprehensive report.
Metro intends to coordinate with the LA Coroner's office, the City of Lawndale, and the property owner to conduct a thorough investigation of the site and survey the property boundaries. In the event that it is confirmed that the potential burial site lies within Metro's jurisdiction, the agency will engage the services of on-call archeological and paleontological experts to determine the presence of human remains. Should human remains be uncovered, Metro will adhere to the provisions outlined in the California Health and Safety Code. Additionally, Metro will provide updated information on any subsequent investigations that may be required.