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Search for more graves after more than 140 possible coffins found under Tampa apartment complex

Posted at 5:22 PM, Dec 02, 2019

TAMPA, Fla. — The map Paul Jones is holding shows where the Zion Cemetery was, which dates all the way back to the early 1900s.

“This yellow area right in here is the area we are testing today, where we expect to get returns," he said.

It was Tampa’s first African American cemetery.

But Zion was lost until an earlier report led the Housing Authority to search around Robles Park Apartment complex.

Archaeologists found more than 140 coffins.

RELATED: Residents forced to move after more than 140 possible coffins found under Tampa apartment complex

Tony Huffman is general manager of the Sunstate Wrecker Service on Florida Avenue.

The company owns a property next to the apartments, and today experts are back with their radar scanners checking here for even more grave sites.

“We are all wondering how could this happen. These people deserve better than what they got. Certainly, if they are here, the markers need to be put in place, it needs to be respected," Huffman said.

Sunstate spent the weekend clearing the lot of cars, trucks and equipment.

“Private property often requires people to interrupt their business or interrupt the work they are doing to allow us to get out here and do this work," said Jones with Cardno, Inc., the company the Tampa Housing Authority hired to conduct the search.

Officials will tear down some of the apartment buildings near where the graves were found.

That will allow them to look for more.

What will happen if other coffins are found here hasn’t been decided.

Experts say they’ve only searched about 20 percent of the area where the cemetery is and there could be hundreds more graves.