Baton Rouge mother outraged after cemetery failed to notify her that son’s burial vault was destroyed

Published: Oct. 13, 2021 at 5:15 AM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - A Baton Rouge mother is outraged after she says no one told her that Hurricane Ida had destroyed her son’s burial vault.

John Winston, Jr. was laid to rest at Helping Hands Cemetery in St. Tammany Parish in 2014.

Ida made landfall Aug. 29, but Louise Callahan, Winston’s mother, says she didn’t find out anything until October 2 thanks to a call from a friend.

“I got a call saying it’s cracked. I thought it was a little crack and I get here, and this is what I see. I see his casket,” Callahan said.

Winston, Jr. went missing in January 2010.

At that time, investigators said Winston disappeared after leaving his girlfriend’s house to go to the grocery store.

His remains were found 4 years later in January 2014 in a long-abandoned home in the Slidell area.

“It took 5 years, and he was found, in our old house buried. His remains were found. Someone told the police where he was, but we still don’t know who killed him,” Callahan said. As of Tuesday, Oct. 12, Winston’s burial vault is shattered, and the casket is exposed.

The only protecting it is a blue tarp that someone gave Callahan to use.

“He was out in the elements for 5 years and he’s back in the elements again. It’s like he’s not resting in peace,” Callahan said.

Callahan claims nobody from the graveyard reached out to let her know what happened.

The cemetery was in such bad shape, that Winston’s father, John Winston, Sr., had to chop up the tree that was sitting on his son’s tomb just to reach it.

“We used parts of the tomb to hold the tarp down,” Bryon Winston, Winston’s brother, said. “This is all parts of the vault.”

Several different headstones in the same graveyard were destroyed too, but Callahan wants to know how something like this could go unnoticed.

”It’s like he’s throwed away, like they don’t care. There should be more responsibility with these people, whoever they are that’s taken over this cemetery,” Callahan said.

The family says they’re still in disbelief.

”It hurts me to see my mother hurt…but we’re here for each other. It’s going to be alright, but this needs to be taken care of,” Winston said.

Callahan says she’s tried to get in touch with the cemetery’s last known caretakers, but she has had no luck.

”All I can think about is John I’m sorry, that’s all. I just… John I’m sorry,” Callahan said.

Trying to fight back tears, this family just wants some sort of accountability.

“Somebody needs to step up. Somebody needs to step up,” Callahan said.

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