(FOX 11) - As she looks at the mobile home park's community dumpster, Diana Bollinger is on edge. She and her husband often dig through dumpsters for recyclables, but while looking for pieces of furniture they could repurpose they found something devastating... the remains of a man she never met.
A man who had died almost 8 years ago whose ashes were in the dumpster. Colman Gomes. She was devastated.
She told FOX 11 News, "It hurts so much because I didn't get to see my dad and my husband's going to die soon. I couldn't imagine someone turning someone away... I just can't imagine him being in the garbage."
The only clue on the box--a funeral home in Silsbee, Texas. Bollinger started making calls- to the funeral home- to FOX 11. For two days Bollinger lived with Gomes' ashes. She said, "I just want this man to have a proper burial."
We got in touch with the Silsbee Bee, the community newspaper which found its obituary for Colman. He died in 2010 at a Nursing home not far from there. He was native of Trinidad in the West Indies and worked as a security guard in Port Au Spain. So HOW- did the ashes end up dumped thousands of miles away in apple valley
When Diana couldn't figure out who to call she reached out on Facebook for help and Wendy D'Isabella responded, taking the box and starting to search for family at the same time we were. But ALL our searching--from Apple Valley to Texas--led to the very same place... the mobile home park where Diana lives. More specifically 76 spaces away on the other side of the property where Mario Gonzalez, his wife and son live. Mario is married to Colman's niece.
Turns out Mario Gonzalez had the box with Uncle Colman. Colman's wife lived here at the pace three years but, sadly, died three weeks ago. Gonzalez says he had people brought into the home to throw out her things after she passed and they, while throwing out things, threw out Uncle Colman... not intentionally.
Turns out-- it may have all been an accident--although it is against California law to throw someones' ashes in a dumpster.
Wendy D'Isabella, not wanting to make any mistakes took the box to the Sheriffs Department where, Mario says, Deputies decided he did nothing wrong and gave HIM Uncle Colman. The bottom line, says Mario, "I ain't gonna lose him no more."
And, for Diana, a search for family--for a man she never knew. And now a connection to a family--she'll never forget. As she hugged Mario she said, "It's a relief… it's such a relief … Oh my God…I'm so happy."