PECOS, TX (KWES) - A grieving Pecos father was forced to bury his infant daughter a second time Friday morning, thanks to a courthouse documentation error.
Angel Anchondo said he undertook a lengthy legal battle to excavate his day-old baby girl's coffin after he discovered she was mistakenly buried on top of another body in the "Babyland" section of Greenwood Cemetery.
"I dug her up with my own hands," he said. "But I'm happy I know it was done properly this time. She has a final resting place now."
Anchondo told NewsWest 9 he wasn't aware of the error until more than three months after his daughter, Mia Ciello Anchondo, was initially buried. He found a letter from a stranger at the grave last February, he said, claiming another man's father was beneath the headstone he had decorated for Mia.
"I found out there was someone under her when I went to bring her Valentine's Day flowers," Anchondo said.
He called the mistake "disrespectful" and said it pained him to relive the horror of burying his child. Furthermore, Anchondo said it took his attorney nearly a year and a half to secure permission to move her coffin.
According to funeral home director, Mark Zuniga, the documentation error can be traced back to Reeves County Court officials. The County Clerk is responsible for recording and assigning purchased plots at Greenwood Cemetery, he explained.
"They just didn't document that [Mia Anchondo's plot] had already been purchased by another family,"said Zuniga, who owns Peaceful Gardens Funeral Home in Pecos. "Then Angel [Anchondo] purchased a plot to bury his baby daughter... and we marked it up not knowing it should have been assigned to that other gentleman."
NewsWest 9 was unable to reach Reeves County Clerk Dianne Florez for comment.
However, according to Zuniga, similar graveyard mix-ups have traumatized other grieving families in the past. He said he had seen the same error made at least ten times in the last 15 years.
"It's happened many times," he said. "I've confronted them about [adopting] a better system [of documentation]... I've been pushing for it for years."
Anchondo said he knew of two Pecos families who also had to excavate and re-bury their loved ones.