INVESTIGATORS: Bring Maria home II - KMSP-TV

INVESTIGATORS: Bring Maria home II

Posted: Updated:
CHANHASSEN, Minn. (KMSP) -

New developments in the Fox 9 Investigation into a Chanhassen cemetery that has lost track of an unknown number of baby graves -- and for the first time, St. Hubert's Catholic Church is responding.

Since the story ran last week, support for the family has swelled.

MORE: Bring Maria Home

In the 50 years since John Rogers lost his one-day-old daughter Maria, he has only been able to visit a general area of the cemetery -- the baby area.

"We have always thought she was here," he told Fox 9 Investigator Trish Van Pilsum.

The Rogers family is unsure of the exact spot because they couldn't afford a marker. John Rogers' wife was still in the hospital when Maria was buried. He was overwhelmed with caring for his four other children -- the youngest of whom was gravely ill.

"I don't remember, but I probably wasn't in very good shape," Rogers admitted.

The priest at the time, Father Firmin Weber, did not perform a funeral, did not consecrate the grave and did not perform a grave site prayer.

"Maybe we should have spoken up more," John Rogers reflected. "I don't know."

A few years back, John and his wife, Patricia, inherited a family plot in the Eden Prairie cemetery and decided to move Maria to the spot where they would one day lie. The idea was to have Maria waiting for John and Patricia in the family plot.

"It didn't happen that way," Ann Rogers said. "He had a heart attack and died."

Now, both John Rogers and Maria are alone and their story, which aired last Wednesday, lit up social media. A Facebook page called Bring Baby Maria Home has drawn nearly 600 likes and dozens of supportive comments.

Many promised to contact St. Hubert's Catholic Church. The church wouldn't confirm whether they did, but late Friday night, the church posted this response to the story in its website.

VIEW: Pastor's response [PDF]

The current pastor, Father Rolf Tollefson, wrote that the church did not turn the Rogers family away. In fact, leaders met with them several times -- which is true. John Rogers' daughter, Cori, was at one of the meetings with Tollefson.

"He was very brusque and acted like it didn't matter," Cori Rogers Austin said.

St. Hubert's offered Maria a funeral at the church -- without a body -- and a marker at that cemetery in the general area of her body but refused to even try to look for her body so that she could be moved to be with her family. In fact, Rogers Austin said Father Tollefson told the family they would see her in heaven.

"That's true, but would he say the same thing about his mother if she was in a different cemetery and he wanted to bring her home?" Patricia Rogers asked.

Tollefson also wrote that a court order is necessary. Not exactly true -- it does take a court order to use special technology to locate lost graves, something St. Hubert's has refused to do.

It does not take a court order to probe cemetery ground, something St. Hubert's has also refused to do -- something, by the way, that St. Michael's Catholic Cemetery in Farmington, Minn., told the Fox 9 Investigators they have done from time to time. Plagued by similar record-keeping problems, when they have needed to know if a plot contains a burial vault or not, they have proved and done minor excavating just to make sure.

It does not even take a legal battle to exhume a burial vault.

"I would, in my situation, tell the family, 'We are not willing to do this," John Cherek, of The Catholic Cemeteries, said. "We are not willing to take the risk of doing this; therefore, we need to get a court order telling us to comply with it."

The Rogers would need a court order to open a burial vault to confirm it held baby Maria, and St. Hubert's says it is saddened by the entire situation.

"I definitely understand that and can appreciate the anguish they must have felt all these years," Cherek said.

It is the sanctity of the cemetery the church wants to protect. This is how the cemetery looked even after maintenance workers had been through -- garbage, collapsed graves. The families of other missing babies whose graves might be affected by a search have given the Rogers family their blessings, but the church now says it has no idea how many babies have been lost.

Since it appears the dispute is headed for court, a foundation has offered to help the Rogers family with their legal bills.

  • InvestigatorsMore>>

  • FOX 9 Investigators: Backing Up Blind

    FOX 9 Investigators: Backing Up Blind

    National Safety Group Kids and Cars found that at least two American children die and 50 others are injured each week in back-over crashes. That's why the FOX 9 Investigators conducted a test.
    National Safety Group Kids and Cars found that at least two American children die and 50 others are injured each week in back-over crashes. That's why the FOX 9 Investigators conducted a test.
  • CHILD PORN INVESTIGATION: 'His charisma could fool you'

    CHILD PORN INVESTIGATION: 'His charisma could fool you'

    Monday, August 4 2014 5:30 PM EDT2014-08-04 21:30:53 GMT
    A trusted church leader and Brooklyn Park, Minn. volunteer volleyball coach is the subject of a child pornography investigation after a family found their daughter exploited in ways they couldn't imagine.
    A trusted church leader and Brooklyn Park, Minn. volunteer volleyball coach is the subject of a child pornography investigation after a family found their daughter exploited in ways they couldn't imagine.
  • INVESTIGATORS: Humans still helping emerald ash borer

    INVESTIGATORS: Humans still helping emerald ash borer

    Monday, July 28 2014 9:53 PM EDT2014-07-29 01:53:40 GMT
    It's been 5 years since a bug that threatens to wipe out millions of trees was first discovered in Minnesota, but despite the rules that were put in place to stop the spread, the emerald ash borer is still on the move.
    It's been 5 years since a bug that threatens to wipe out millions of trees was first discovered in Minnesota, but despite the rules that were put in place to stop the spread, the emerald ash borer is still on the move.
  • Most Popular StoriesMost Popular StoriesMore>>

  • PHOTOS: Strong storms sweep through Twin Cities metro

    PHOTOS: Strong storms sweep through Twin Cities metro

    Sunday, August 31 2014 11:22 PM EDT2014-09-01 03:22:45 GMT
    Strong storms swept into Twin Cities on Sunday evening, bringing a threat of damaging wind, hail and rain on the busy Labor Day weekend.
    Strong storms swept into Twin Cities on Sunday evening, bringing a threat of damaging wind, hail and rain on the busy Labor Day weekend.
  • #BurnsvilleStrong: Coming together after tragedies

    #BurnsvilleStrong: Coming together after tragedies

    Sunday, August 31 2014 10:14 PM EDT2014-09-01 02:14:00 GMT
    For thousands of students in Minnesota, summer vacation will end on Monday -- but kids in one metro district will be returning to the classroom with heavy hearts and administrators hope a social media slogan will help.
    For thousands of students in Minnesota, summer vacation will end on Monday -- but kids in one metro district will be returning to the classroom with heavy hearts and administrators hope a social media slogan will help.
  • 28 new foods at Minnesota State Fair in 2014

    28 new foods at Minnesota State Fair in 2014

    Wednesday, June 25 2014 2:57 PM EDT2014-06-25 18:57:53 GMT
    The Minnesota State Fair is adding 28 new foods to the already massive, artery-clogging list of 500 foods from 300 different vendors. New food include everything from a bacon-wrapped turkey leg and beer gelato to a shrimp dog and chocolate salami.
    The Minnesota State Fair is adding 28 new foods to the already massive, artery-clogging list of 500 foods from 300 different vendors. New food include everything from a bacon-wrapped turkey leg and beer gelato to a shrimp dog and chocolate salami.
Widgets Magazine
Powered by WorldNow

KMSP-TV
11358 Viking Drive
Eden Prairie, MN 55344

Phone: (952) 944-9999
Fax: (952) 942-0455

Didn't find what you were looking for?
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Fox Television Stations, Inc. and Worldnow. All Rights Reserved.
Privacy Policy | New Terms of Service What's new | Ad Choices