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Tombstones found during Loma Linda drug bust

August 19, 2011 | 12:13 pm

Tombstones found in drug bust
When sheriff’s deputies raided a suspected meth house in Loma Linda, the drugs, guns and pipes were there, as expected.

But the discovery of about two dozen granite tombstones had them stumped.

Although officials originally believed the markers were stolen, that might not be the case.

A San Bernardino man has said his company made the tombstones, but he gave them to a local contractor a few years ago because they all had mistakes.

Denver Cooley said Friday that when he first started working at Monumental Bronze & Granite in 1996, the owner at the time had a big stack of markers that could not be used because they either had a wrong date or missing initial.

Tombstones are hard to get rid of, Cooley said, because it’s difficult to break them into pieces, and they’re too heavy for easy disposal.

Over time, the pile of mismarked markers--some of which were 20 years old-–just grew larger.

After Cooley took over the company in 2004, Yucaipa contractor Mike Ellis came in to remodel the office. He saw the stack of tombstones and asked Cooley if he could take them for a patio.

Happy to get them off his hands, Cooley said yes, and Ellis took them away.

“I never gave it anymore thought until they did this article,” Cooley said, referring to news reports earlier this week that the tombstones had been found.

Cooley got in touch with investigators and told them his story.

“We’ve remade all the markers, so every one of those markers in those trucks have a marker that’s correct in the cemetery,” Cooley said. “They’re not stolen-–the markers are there. I think there was a little gun-jumping going on.”

Cooley’s main worry, he said, was that families would think the stones were missing from their loved ones’ graves.

“I’m concerned that they’re going to look at the newspaper and think their dad’s marker is off the grave,” Cooley said. “They don’t need all the stress, that’s for sure. They already lost a loved one, you know?”

Ellis said he gave the tombstones to 50-year-old John Bleuer, a man he’d known for more than 15 years.

Ellis would often give old materials to Bleuer, who would use them to build walls and for other various projects. Ellis told Bleuer about the leftover markers, and Bleuer said he’d use them as pavers.

“So I took him over a couple trailer loads of headstones,” Ellis said. “It’s been four years and nothing came out of it because there’s nothing to come out of it because they were all trash.”

Bleuer was one of four people arrested at the home Tuesday, and faces charges including possession of a controlled substance for sale and illegal possession of firearms.

Steve Hansen, Louis Anchelowitz and Lisa Jackson also were arrested Tuesday at the home.

Calls to a spokeswoman at the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department weren’t immediately returned.

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-- Kate Mather

Photo: San Bernardino County Sheriff's deputies stand next to a flatbed truck containing gravestones found during a methamphetamine arrest. Credit: Ken Anthony / San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department.

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