Nineteen-year-old Candice Moore noticed something odd while driving near her parents home north of Hayden a couple months ago: four or five men who looked to be in their 20s or 30s digging at a lone grave site just off the side of the road. One of the men leaned on his shovel and waved at her.
The grave site had been there for many years, and residents of the area had grown accustomed to it. When Candice got home that August day, she told her father what she saw.
Norman Moore couldn't believe it. He told Candice that it was probably just the family tending to the grave.
But when Candice returned, the men were gone and at the grave site, there was only a hole in the ground and the headstone laying beside it, Norman said.
"I always thought it was odd they didn't take the headstone," said Jerry Sathers, the Moores' next-door neighbor and closest resident to the grave site.
Everyone in the area believed what had happened to the grave was something official.
"Why would anybody just dig up a grave for no reason?" nearby resident Rebecca Rolando asked.
"There was a rumor around here that there was a permit," nearby resident Jolene Pitney Lyon said.
But there was no permit.
Last week, the situation was reported to the Hayden Police Department and now the possible grave robbery is under investigation by the Routt County Sheriff's Office.
The grave was that of Josiah Pugh, who lived in the Hayden area from 1825 to 1897, said Janan Pugh, whose husband, Don, believes Josiah is his great-great uncle. Since finding out about the possible grave robbery this week, the Pughs visited the grave site and began calling relatives to find out their exact relation to the man.
Janan Pugh reported the possible grave robbery to Hayden police Wednesday night after the Moore family alerted her to the situation. Pugh said she had no idea why someone would want to dig up the grave.
Residents who live near the grave site also have no idea why anyone would dig up the body. Sathers assumed the body was taken out for some archeological or historical purpose.
"It's a sad thing. I don't understand what the people who did it were thinking. It's a beautiful setting for a burial," Sathers said. "It's sad, too, because it was always something we could take the kids to, to say, 'hey, look at this.'"
"I couldn't believe it," Rolando said. "It's always been an important thing to our area -- a real historical marker."
The Routt County Sheriff's Office removed the headstone Friday for investigation.
On Thursday, Sheriff John Warner said that anyone arrested in connection with the vandalism could face criminal charges related to knowingly digging up human remains and defacing a burial site. He did not say whether human remains had been removed from the grave.