Search over for lost cemetery: 'We found it'

Search over for lost cemetery: 'We found it'
Marion and a drawing of her grandmother. (Photo source: WLOX News)
Marion and a drawing of her grandmother. (Photo source: WLOX News)

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Eighty-year-old Marion Booth and her family have been searching for the burial site of her grandmother for more than a year.

When the community got word of the search, they decided to lend a helping hand - and paw.

"We'll be working with the dogs to basically help identify any human remains," said search coordinator Scott Bayleat.

More than 20 members of Gulf Coast Search and Rescue brought cadaver dogs to help sniff out the cemetery on Saturday.

Property owner Ed Byrd, who claims to have seen the site in 2004, was also present.

"If you go straight down to the right, because this hill pitches off, the cemetery is right there to the right," said Byrd, pointing to a map.

Booth could not join the search party, but eagerly awaited news from home as the group of about 30 split off with high spirits and positive attitudes.

"I do believe that it's going to work today, we're going to find it. I'm excited," said Booth's daughter, Dr. Sandra Walker.

The dogs, who are trained to locate human remains, lead the way.

"We're looking for differences in terrain, where holes may have been dug years ago, and stuff falling in them. It's going to be softer there," said Sherrie Kinton.

Trudging and hacking through acres of wet, overgrown forest was trying. Additionally, conflicting memories from different people pulled the groups in different directions.

Mobile users: Click here to view a slideshow of the search

The dogs caught on to several scents and alerted the search party, but all were false alarms.

But after two hours of searching - as the dogs were tiring and the group began to make plans for continuing the search on another day - deep in the thickets, far off any trails, the group found the cemetery.

It was more than the family ever imagined.

"Oh God, I've been looking for this for so long," said Booth's granddaughter, Mariam Clayton.

As Walker called her mother to deliver the news, the group found what they had ultimately been searching for - Booth's grandmother, Zilphy Newkirk.

The group found around six headstones belonging to several members of Booth's family.

Although the 80 year old couldn't make it out to the site, she plans to go once the family has cleared it out.

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