$200,000 payout by Lincoln cemetery, Catholic Church in missing remains case

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Frank Farinha’s body is still missing but his descendents have settled a legal dispute with the Lincoln cemetery he was buried in 64 years ago. According to terms of a settlement made public Tuesday, four Farinha family members – Terry, Ernest and Mario, of the Auburn area, and Lorraine Adams of Southern California – are being paid a total of $200,000. The Roman Catholic Church’s Northern California diocese will pay $25,000 and Placer County Cemetery District No. 1 will pay $175,000. Ralph Laird, Auburn attorney for the Farinha family, said extensive efforts were made at the cemetery to find the body of Frank Farinha, who died in 1947. “Unfortunately, they never did find the remains of Mr. Farinha and at this point, I doubt they ever will be found,” Laird said. The family sued after the death of Frank Farinha’s widow, Mary Farinha in early 2008. She had lived to be 105 and the family requested she be buried next to Frank’s plot. The cemetery refused the burial despite the fact that Frank Farinha’s grave marker in Lincoln was a double headstone, with room on one side for his wife’s name and dates of birth and death. When the cemetery said there was no record of a second plot for Mary, the family asked for Frank’s body to be exhumed so it could be placed next to Mary’s at the New Auburn Cemetery in Auburn. According to Laird, the Farinha family’s attempts to have the cemetery district exhume the body under the marker were not successful. An adjacent vault for a resident buried in 2007 was opened on the premise the Farinha body rested underneath it. But nothing was found, Laird said. The cemetery district dug up adjacent plots in an attempt to find the Frank Farinha remains and also probed with sonar in other nearby locations without success, Laird said. The family sued on the grounds that Frank Farinha’s remains had been mishandled, leading to the recent six-figure settlement. The Catholic Church was the original operator of the cemetery and it was later taken over by the cemetery district. Complicating the case was the initial stance by the cemetery district that – despite the double headstone – proof was needed in the form of a receipt to show that two plots had initially been purchased. The plot next to Frank Farinha intended for Mary Farinha had been used for another burial. Mary Farinha’s daughter, Terry, eventually did find a receipt, some time after the family decided to disinter Frank Farinha’s remains for reburial in Auburn – resulting in the discovery that the remains of a man who had died in 1947 were not there. Attorneys for both the church and cemetery district could not be reached for comment.