It has been nearly a month since the remains of a Valley Stream woman disappeared from an East Farmingdale cemetery.
Many of Mattia Filippazzo's relatives are so upset that they can't bring themselves to visit the family mausoleum in St. Charles Cemetery, once a frequent spot for visits, said Vincent Longo, 45, one of Mattia's grandsons.
"A lot of the family can't go back there. It's been a difficult time," he said.
Suffolk detectives said they have "cast a wide net" as they tried to learn how the coffin was reached, the condition of the body and what someone might have wanted with them.
Working with limited physical evidence and a crime with no clear motive, the case has taken detectives down "bizarre" paths, including into possible religious or spiritual realms, said Det. Lt. Robert Edwards of the First Squad.
"There have been other cases [of stolen remains] with religious or spiritual undertones. We're not talking about your traditional religions here," he said.
Police believe a group of people jumped a fence at the cemetery and made their way to a road lined with stone mausoleums. They broke the locks of several stone crypts in the sprawling Catholic cemetery but tried to reach the coffins in only three, police said. The only coffin disturbed contained the remains of Filippazzo. The theft was discovered Aug. 24.
The people would have needed at least two tools - bolt cutters or saw, and a sledgehammer - to get through a padlocked door and break a stone tablet to reach the casket, Edwards said. A thin zinc liner had also to be breached before the coffin was pried open. A cemetery groundskeeper discovered the coffin open and empty just outside the mausoleum.
Edwards said investigators have taken a crash course on spiritual practices that could involve human remains and sought help from several people in the religious community. Other motives - hope for financial gain, retribution, or even simple vandalism - remain open possibilities.
The Filippazzo family and supporters are offering a reward of $30,000 for information leading to the return of the remains. CrimeStoppers is offering an additional $5,000.
Longo said he has been in contact with detectives several times a week since the theft was discovered on the morning of Aug. 24.
"It's like we're lost and we don't know which way to turn," he said.
Filippazzo was raised in Sicily, Italy, and moved to Brooklyn in the 1950s. She worked as a seamstress and died in 1998 at the age of 87.