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Spinal Cord and More Unearthed in Delray Beach Backyard

Twenty-two-year-old Alayna Lakatos admits that the backyard of her house on Seventh Avenue in Delray Beach needs landscaping. There's hardly any grass. She moved in last month with two roommates, but on Saturday, January 25, her roommate's dog, Otis, a German Shepherd-Lab mix, was outside working in the yard.

When he trotted over to Lakatos that afternoon, he had a bone in his mouth, and it wasn't the type sold at Petco. Forensics would later identify it as a femur. Soon, she found a bunch of other bones, including a severed spinal cord.The recent rains probably brought them to the surface, Lakatos says.

"We weren't sure if they were human or dog bones," Lakatos remembers. "We felt the right thing to do was call the police, and we did." Shortly after her phone call, two uniformed Delray Beach officers arrived and went poking around in the dirt. They found even more bones. Crime scene investigators were called. They bagged the remains and sent them to forensics for analysis.

"Forensics said it looked too big to be a dog but it could be a child or petite person," Lakatos says." And forensics said they were cut and really, really old."

The house is currently owned by Delray Community Land Trust, an organization that finds decent housing for low- and moderate-income individuals. Lakatos was told if the lab results confirm that the remains are human, she and her roommates would have to vacate the property.

The house is located a block from the Delray Beach Memorial Gardens, a cemetery owned by the City of Delray Beach. The graveyard was founded in 1902 by the Ladies Association of Linton and currently covers almost 40 acres between SW Eighth and SW Tenth Avenue, and SW Tenth Street and SW Sixth Street. However, a city council record from 1926 suggests that there are unmarked graves outside of the cemetery's borders. Graves were marked during that time with wooden stakes that the 1926 records say "have rotted away and in many instances there is no record either as to the owner or occupant of the grave."

The city council record explains that an effort was made to contact the owners, friends, and relatives of those buried to pinpoint the location of the different sites. "It is also noted that many of the graves are not located on the lots which they are supposed to be, there are many in the streets and out of bound," the record states.

"The city is using every reasonable effort to relocate all graves, and as soon as this is done will re-plat the cemetery, and place the streets in the most convenient and accessible place," the 88-year-old document states. However, the city of Delray Beach didn't expand the cemetery for another 69 years, not until 1995, years after the surrounding area had been developed for housing.

Regardless of the bones' identity, Lakatos and her roommates are curious. They bought a Ouija board in an attempt to communicate with the owners of the bones on their land. But so far, she says, their attempts have been futile.



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Jess Swanson is a staff writer at New Times. Born and raised in Miami, she graduated from the University of Miami’s School of Communication and wrote briefly for the student newspaper until realizing her true calling: pissing off fraternity brothers by reporting about their parties on her crime blog. Especially gifted in jumping rope and solving Rubik’s cubes, she also holds the title for longest stint as an unpaid intern in New Times history. She left the Magic City for New York to earn her master’s degree from Columbia University School of Journalism, where she spent a year profiling circumcised men who were trying to regrow their foreskins for a story that ultimately won the John Horgan Award for Critical Science Journalism. Terrified by pizza rats and arctic temperatures, she quickly returned to her natural habitat.
Contact: Jess Swanson

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