Buried secrets: Cremated remains found in backyard; finder seeks next of kin

Woman seeks to reunite found box containing what appear to be cremation ashes, possibly of someone named Arline Fisher as penciled on the back of a photo in the box, with next of kin, Washington, Utah, Oct. 9, 2014 | Photo by Corbin Wade, St. George News and KCSG Television

WASHINGTON CITY – Out of the ashes of time, what appear to be cremated remains, along with an old photograph of a little girl, have been unearthed near a Washington City woman’s backyard; and now, the woman is looking to reunite the box and its contents with next of kin.

The box, encasing the apparent cremated ashes securely, yet delicately, was found through a unique convergence of circumstances when a neighbor’s little girls were playing in an empty lot beside Randi Deem’s home located on the 400 North block of Creek Ridge Drive in Washington.

Woman seeks to reunite found and unidentified cremations with next of kin, Washington, Utah, Oct. 9, 2014 | Photo by Corbin Wade, St. George News - KCSG Television
Location where a box of what appear to be cremation ashes was found. Washington, Utah, Oct. 9, 2014 | Photo by Corbin Wade, St. George News and KCSG Television

The area had just experienced heavy torrential rains that Monday and Tuesday. Another one of Deem’s neighbors was excavating the area the following Wednesday and Thursday.

“The guy that lives next door was digging with his excavator,” Deem said, “because the back of their house, their patio, was washed away.”

It was two weeks ago, on Sept. 28, when the girls discovered the box, blissfully unaware of its contents, while playing in the vacant lot owned by Deem’s aunt for the last two years, Deem said.

“They were just climbing on the rocks and playing in the dirt,” she said, “and they found them.”

The girls immediately took the box to their dad who turned it over to Deem for safekeeping.

“The box looks just like a little tiny – maybe a jewelry case or a little handmade wooden – like a little music box or something perhaps,” Deem said, adding:

You can tell it’s handmade and there’s some detailing on the front. On the top, on the lid, there’s some flowers they’ve kind of etched into the top of the lid. It’s really quite pretty. They’ve gone to a lot of work, whoever made this little box.

Inside the delicately handmade box is what is believed to be, yet still to be confirmed, cremated remains, wrapped in a piece of plastic wrap.

At first, Deem said, she wasn’t sure what to think about what was inside the box. She said:

I’m like ‘OK, is somebody pulling a trick? These aren’t drugs or anything?’ It’s not. I opened it up. I could feel it through the Saran Wrap and every once in awhile you could feel like a bone fragment or something, and it just smells like dirt, so there’s no drugs or anything in it.

Woman seeks to reunite found and unidentified cremations with next of kin, Washington, Utah, Oct. 9, 2014 | Photo by Corbin Wade, St. George News - KCSG Television
Box of what appear to be cremation ashes. Washington, Utah, Oct. 9, 2014 | Photo by Corbin Wade, St. George News and KCSG Television

Included in the box with what appear to be cremated ashes, is a small and aged sepia photograph of a little girl. On the back of the picture, inscribed in pencil, are the words: “Arline Fisher 83.”

“It doesn’t say 1983 or 1883 – it just says 83,” Deem said.

Deem said she thinks “83” stands for 1983 because of the little girl’s hairstyle in the photo and the short-sleeved dress she is wearing.

“They didn’t wear short sleeves back then in 1883,” she said. ”And then, remember when you’d go to your grandma’s house and she’d have those photo albums where you’d pull back that sheet and it had the diagonal lines of the glue – see that?” she said, pointing to the back of the photo.

Furthermore, cellophane wrap was not invented until 1911 and modern plastic wrap not introduced until 1943.

A search on Utah Division of Archives and Records Service, on Oct. 12, does not show a Utah death record for Arline Fisher.

For the time being, Deem said she has not yet contacted authorities about the discovery.

“We cleaned up the box and I’ve just got it right here in my home for safekeeping” Deem said, “hoping we can find whoever owns it. I didn’t dare put it back over there because I thought you know, ‘if the excavation continues, it could be lost forever.’”

Woman seeks to reunite found and unidentified cremations with next of kin, Washington, Utah, Oct. 9, 2014 | Photo by Corbin Wade, St. George News - KCSG Television
Box and contents: what appear to be cremation ashes and a photo with the name Arline Fisher penciled on the back of it.  Washington, Utah, Oct. 9, 2014 | Photo by Corbin Wade, St. George News – KCSG Television

Washington County Sheriff’s Deputy Shauna Smith said that this is something that would normally be reported to law enforcement as stolen property.

Although, according to NOLO Legal Encyclopedia, in Utah, there are no state laws controlling where a person may keep or scatter ashes.

“Ashes may be stored in a crypt, niche, grave, or container at home,” according to NOLO legal encyclopedia. “If you wish to scatter ashes, you have many options. Cremation renders ashes harmless, so there is no public health risk involved in scattering them.”

The box is currently nestled on Deem’s shelf until the owner or next of kin can be found.

Anyone with information that might help identify the appropriate recipient of this treasure, please email [email protected].

Please help us solve the mystery of the box and locate next of kin by sharing this story on Facebook and Twitter.

Click on photo to enlarge it, then use your left-right arrow keys to cycle through the gallery. 

Ed. note:  Randi Deem’s name spelling has been corrected, 12:30 p.m.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2014, all rights reserved.

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  • Annabelle October 13, 2014 at 9:57 am

    What about searching for the name of the land owner at that time through county records? There could be a Fisher match. Perhaps her last name changed through marital status since the picture, before the death.

    • chekwriter October 14, 2014 at 1:02 pm

      Yes, that would be my first move. From there, may be then find related family to FISHER surname.

      • laytonian October 14, 2014 at 8:03 pm

        Read below. It took me 3 minutes to find her via Google. All the people who found the box need to do, is use the link I posted below.

  • nicole October 13, 2014 at 10:11 am

    I wonder if this child could be from a polygamist family? They choose to do things whatever way they want to and they don’t follow the way that normal society would. Much is hidden, and many lies are told. Hopefully this child did not have a sad death. The photo looks like the early 60 ‘ s to me. but, just my opinion.

  • San October 13, 2014 at 10:35 am

    Jane, please delete the other two replies above and just post this one….

    There was only one ‘Arline’ Fisher born in UT, according to public records (Arline E. Fisher). Her last publicly recorded address was in IL in 2008. The rest are spelled more traditionally as ‘Arlene’. My instinct is that this might be Arlene E. Fisher (b: April 11, 1916) born in SLC and lived in Summit. She died there on September 4, 2004. She was likely a relative of the younger “Arline’, maybe an aunt, and someone misspelled the name. Arlene is a family name for the SLC Fisher’s. There has been one in each generation that I saw for the past 100 or so years. If you go to LDS.org and ‘family history’, then ‘search’, you can find all of this free of charge. I hope it helps. My guess is that the lady you need to connect with lives in Vernon Hill, IL…a matter of public record. Good Luck!!!

    • PHJ October 13, 2014 at 11:33 am

      That’s funny. Your comment asking to have the other two comments deleted and leaving only yours is even funnier.

      • Joyce Kuzmanic October 13, 2014 at 11:49 am

        No no, PHJ – she wanted her own first two deleted as she obviously reformulated her thoughts. That’s OK, I understood what she meant and indulged the request. We do that sometimes. 🙂
        ST. GEORGE NEWS | STGnews.com
        Joyce Kuzmanic
        Editor in Chief

      • San October 13, 2014 at 3:19 pm

        that was MY third comment…and then i found the answer i had been suggesting they go find for themselves. go find another rock to troll under.

    • Jessica October 13, 2014 at 5:49 pm

      Way to use your resources! Another thought.. Arline could be a middle name??

  • JOSH DALTON (INCOGNEGRO) October 13, 2014 at 12:15 pm

    Looks like it could be someone’s stash…maybe a oz. of some heroin that as been stepped on a few times. It does “appear to be cremation” but who knows…

  • Wendy October 13, 2014 at 12:25 pm

    I wonder if they have taken them to a funeral home to see if that is the approx right amount of ashes for a child?

    • Dana October 13, 2014 at 4:30 pm

      Do you really believe you get all of the ashes after a cremation?

    • Jessica October 13, 2014 at 5:48 pm

      Sometimes ashes are divided up among siblings, family members, etc. So that could be the reason for the small amount of ashes.

  • me October 13, 2014 at 2:33 pm

    Be respectful of the chosen burial place and place it back? Just a thought….

    • Bev October 13, 2014 at 5:53 pm

      That’s what I think, as well

  • Debbie October 13, 2014 at 3:35 pm

    Arline is an old fashioned way of spelling the name. I looked at a few of the neighborhood houses and they are pretty much new construction. Maybe city or county records or just an informed local can share what this area was used for or who owned it. The picture does look vintage, Was it a namesake or a beloved little relative? The box looks like a classic Pennsylvania Dutch pattern that is still around today. Looks like with a little CSI and local know how this can be solved. I sure hope so!

  • Mike Melen October 13, 2014 at 4:09 pm

    I checked Newspaper Archives and there is no obit for her in their databases of Utah Newspapers

  • Emilie T October 13, 2014 at 4:23 pm

    I really hope this article comes with an update im very curious as to the results 🙂

  • Deanna October 13, 2014 at 4:28 pm

    I hate to think this but what if the girl was killed and burned and buried to hide the body. Domestic violence is not out of the question. I would get law enforcement involved just in case. Especially since no one is finding record of this child.

    • laytonian October 14, 2014 at 8:32 am

      IF those are a person’s ashes, they were professionally cremated.
      I have found a record of this person in St George/Las Vegas.

  • Bev October 13, 2014 at 5:50 pm

    Did the finder ever think about just leaving it where it was buried??? Like it was when she found it???

  • Caligirl October 13, 2014 at 11:11 pm

    There is always the possibility that this girl was born and died in another state and a portion of her ashes were buried here by a relative. The picture found with the ashes may not have been a recent picture of her at the time of death, that may have just been the picture of her chosen by whom ever buried the box or even a picture of the deceased persons child or a relative special to them. I do not believe that this is a polygamist person at all due toythe short sleeves of the dress(for they do not show that much skin) and due to the hair cut of this girl (for they do not cut the hair of a girl, especially in that fashion) I hope that this little box can be reunited with the proper person and that we can be updated as information becomes available. I find this story to be fascinating. I also hope this box is not placed back in its original spot only for the simple fact that this article states this land is currently under excavation and if returned it will become destroyed. Good luck and I hope this story comes with a happy ending!

  • Bobber October 13, 2014 at 11:48 pm

    Dalton was hoping it was a bag of crack. Maybe he’ll find the next one…

    • JOSH DALTON (INCOGNEGRO) October 14, 2014 at 7:48 am

      Heroin…not crack.

  • laytonian October 14, 2014 at 8:31 am

    That box is exactly the style I purchased at Cost Less Imports (which later became Pier 1) in Salt Lake City, in the 1960s-1970s. Those boxes were made in India.

    I’m wondering if the ashes are actually those of a treasured pet, because the box is very small. It looks to be the same size box our pets’ ashes come back in.

    There is this on LinkedIn:
    Arline Fisher
    Las Vegas, Nevada Area (which includes St George)
    Hospital & Health Care

  • laytonian October 14, 2014 at 8:34 am

    Arline Fisher IS alive and in St George. All you have to do is Google.
    In addition to finding her LinkedIn profile, I found a book review she posted in February 2014:

  • laytonian October 14, 2014 at 8:37 am

    I don’t know where everyone else was looking, because Google turns up much evidence of Arline Fisher in St George:

    A letter to the editor, 2014:


  • Gail October 14, 2014 at 10:57 am

    You are right, Laytonian! And there is an address for her in Hurricane also.

    • laytonian October 14, 2014 at 8:10 pm

      It took me three minutes to find her, on Google and whitepages.com.

      • Sunny December 1, 2014 at 2:21 am

        You already told us that. Do you want a standing ovation?

  • laytonian October 14, 2014 at 6:58 pm

    So the people with the box are here and going to call her?
    I have nothing to tell her.

  • laytonian October 18, 2014 at 6:33 pm

    So several days later, no one cared enough to follow up on the information I provided?

  • Von October 22, 2014 at 1:55 pm

    You’re good at finding people I wonder if you can help me with some genealogy on my grandpa’s family. He died in Capital Reef, Wayne county a minor. A lonely death. His wife died in childbirth. The son was given to his wife’s dad to raise and his daughter to another family. His name was Thomas Edward Nixon. He married lucy Anne Pendleton. He was born in Columbus, Ohio. His parents came from Ireland. Cannot find his parents records other than the ship they came over in England. How do you find your information on Google?

  • Jaime November 2, 2014 at 5:20 pm

    That’s where her family chose to bury her! PUT HER BACK!! I swear, some people are just idiots.

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