"I just don't know who would do a thing like this, but it upsets me terribly," Edwina Carnahan, the late governor's first cousin who tends the grave site, said Tuesday.
Mrs. Carnahan added the marble marker was last seen at Carson Hill Cemetery in southern Missouri during a funeral Feb. 22. Late last week, a man visiting a family grave site noticed the marker was missing and called police, she said.
Mel Carnahan died in a plane crash near St. Louis last Oct. 16 while traveling to a campaign rally in southeast Missouri. Also killed in the crash were Carnahan's son Roger, known as Randy, and his aide Chris Sifford. At the time, Carnahan was finishing his second term as governor and running for the U.S. Senate.
Since he died too late for his name to be removed from the ballot, Democrat Carnahan went on to defeat Republican Sen. John Ashcroft last November. Carnahan's widow, Jean, was appointed to the Senate seat won by her late husband.
As for the theft, the Wayne County Sheriff is investigating it, Deputy Deanna Handy said Tuesday. The cemetery is in a remote area near the boundary of Carter and Wayne counties, about eight miles outside Ellsinore, the late governor's boyhood home.
"I went down there and spent about three hours looking all around to see if it might have just been moved, but I couldn't find it. Now why would somebody take this? They can't sell it. They can't show it off. It just grieves us to think it was someone's idea of a joke," Edwina Carnahan said.
She said there were signs of digging around where the marker had been sunk about four inches in the ground.
"It's heavy and would have taken two people to move it," she added. She arranged a basket of flowers on the hole left by removal of the marker.
Edwina Carnahan further said there appeared to be nothing else disturbed at the family plot, where there are also graves for the late governor, his son Roger, his parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents.
"I will say that if someone's conscience is bothering them, I would invite them to leave the marker somewhere and call me here in Ellsinore and I will pick it up," she said. "It was so hard to call the other family members and tell them about this, so I hope someone will do the right thing."
Finally, Edwina Carnahan said the marker, on which is carved "Governor Mel Carnahan" and the late governor's dates of birth and death, was to be temporary while a larger monument is prepared.
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