Police investigate a body stolen out of a coffin at...

Police investigate a body stolen out of a coffin at St. Charles Cemetery in East Farmingdale. (Aug. 24, 2010) Credit: James Carbone

The remains of a woman laid to rest at a Suffolk cemetery a dozen years ago are missing after someone broke into the family's mausoleum, pulled out the coffin and pried it open, according to Suffolk police and the woman's family.

A caretaker at St. Charles Cemetery discovered the empty coffin on the grounds of the sprawling East Farmingdale cemetery shortly before its 8 a.m. opening Tuesday, officials said. The gate of the Filippazzo mausoleum was pried open, and a marble slab covering the entrance broken. Next to that vandalized building lay a coffin. Its contents were gone, police said.

The metal doors of two nearby mausoleums had been wrenched open.

A family member on Tuesday identified the remains as those of Mattia Filippazzo, formerly of Valley Stream. "Her body was taken," said Louise Filippazzo, Mattia Filippazzo's sister-in-law. "It takes a sick person to do this. My family is pure, they're saints; I don't know anyone who would do this."

Filippazzo died April 27, 1998, at the age of 87, public records show.

Suffolk Police Deputy Insp. Robert Brown said the level of damage suggested several people were responsible, and that they likely carried tools. Detectives said the group parked a vehicle on New Highway - the public road closest to the break-ins - and jumped a fence. The break-in happened between 6:30 p.m. Monday and 7:30 a.m. Tuesday.

"They came to the cemetery prepared," Brown said. "They knew what they would face in order to open a casket." Police said there was evidence of attempts to reach other coffins within the mausoleums, but no other coffins in the cemetery appeared to have been disturbed.

Msgr. Kieran Harrington, of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn, called it the worst case of vandalism in memory at the cemetery.

"Our hearts are broken for the family that lost a loved one," he said. Harrington said Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio spoke with a member of the dead woman's family and offered his condolences. Members of the other two families were informed Tuesday, he said.

"Our faith testifies to the dignity and sanctity of the human person," DiMarzio said in a statement. "For this reason, we reverence the human body in life and even in death. It is incomprehensible that anyone would violate the sacred resting place of those that have passed from this world to eternal life."

Tuesday, officers with dogs trained to find cadavers circled the 500-acre property and took photos. Detectives declined to discuss a possible motive, but said they did not believe the three were targeted.

With Yamiche Alcindor

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