CORONA DEL MAR, CALIFORNIA: A mentally-ill man has been arrested and charged for allegedly trying to dig up a grave that fans had mistakenly believed belonged to Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna.
Bryant, 41, Gianna, and seven others died after the helicopter carrying them crashed into a mountainside in Calabasas, California, on January 26 this year.
The basketball star and his daughter were subsequently laid to rest in a private ceremony that took place at Pacific View Memorial Park in Corona del Mar, California and was attended by their family and close friends.
The plot chosen for their burial reportedly cost over $450,000 and was the most expensive one in the cemetery, but was left unmarked so fans wouldn’t flock to it and make a shrine of the site.
However, that didn’t stop a 28-year-old man from digging a site that he believed belonged to the pair, and many fans had taken photographs of but is said to have belonged to someone else.
The Newport Beach Police Department confirmed to the Sun that they had arrested the man at 12:39 am on Sunday, March 15, after he was caught at the scene and had taken him to to the local police station.
They said he “complied immediately” and was booked into the Orange County Jail on charges of vandalism before he was released on bail. He is now awaiting trial for the charges.
The man reportedly came to the scene prepared and was wearing knee pads so he could climb over a four-foot wall surrounding the site, which had its own locked gate. He had then peeled back the grass and used tools to dig into the ground.
Staff at Pacific View caught the 28-year-old in the act and immediately phoned 911 before waiting with him until the police arrived and took him away.
This is not the first time that there has been confusion surrounding Kobe’s and Gianna’s gravesite either. MEA WorldWide previously reported that fans had flocked to the wrong gravesite in the hundreds in February after they were first laid to rest.
A representative for the cemetery said at the time that the flowers left for the pair are being cleared out every day because the plot belongs to another family.
“We can confirm that is not Kobe and Gianna’s resting place,” said Ashley Bunton of Service Corporation International, which owns the cemetery. “We cannot divulge any additional details as to where they are. But we can tell you that is not the correct location.”
While there were purple and yellow flowers at the site, which are the colors of Kobe’s Los Angeles Lakers team, Bunton insisted that it was a just a coincidence and that they had to increase the security in the cemetery because of these constant infractions.
“Just a lot of people coming wandering the cemetery and looking to see if they can locate the burial site,” she shared.
A security guard at the cemetery revealed 400 people had visited the gravesite in just one weekend but similarly said it belonged to someone else who had been buried there in November.
“Others have actually run into the family members who’ve kind of shooed people away from that spot just because it’s disturbing the peace to the person interred there,” the guard said.