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Officials try to determine origin of tombstones found in drug bust

Investigators say at least two of the 24 markers, discovered during a raid at a suspected drug house in Loma Linda, were from cemeteries in Colton.

August 20, 2011|By Kate Mather, Los Angeles Times
  • San Bernardino County sheriff's deputies stand next to a flatbed truck containing 24 gravestones that were found during a raid of a suspected drug house in Loma Linda. Officials say at least two of the markers are from two cemeteries in Colton.
San Bernardino County sheriff's deputies stand next to a flatbed… (Ken Anthony / Associated…)

As calls poured in Friday saying that a batch of tombstones discovered during a Loma Linda drug bust this week were not stolen from graves as initially believed, authorities were trying to determine where the markers came from.

Two dozen tombstones were found Tuesday at a home in the 10900 block of Cabrillo Loop after San Bernardino County sheriff's deputies served a search warrant on a suspected drug house.

Inside, they found methamphetamine, guns and pipes — and the tombstones scattered around the backyard.

Although two men have said the gravestones were not stolen, investigators have determined at least two were.

Denver Cooley, owner of Monumental Bronze & Granite in San Bernardino, said he was going to throw out the tombstones because they contained mistakes and couldn't be used.

He gave them to Yucaipa contractor Mike Ellis, who passed them along to Loma Linda resident John Bleuer, who told Ellis he'd use the stones as pavers. Bleuer was one of four people arrested in Tuesday's raid.

San Bernardino County sheriff's spokeswoman Cindy Bachman said Friday that officials have confirmed that two of the stones were stolen: one from Agua Mansa Pioneer Cemetery and the other from Montecito Memorial Park, both in Colton.

Deputies are still investigating the other 22 tombstones, she said.

"They're attempting to verify if these were attained through a manufacturer or a distributor, and if in fact they were not stolen," Bachman said.

Bleuer was arraigned Friday on charges of possession of a controlled substance for sale and illegal possession of a firearm.

He originally faced charges of possessing stolen property, but court records show those charges were not part of Friday's arraignment.

kate.mather@latimes.com

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