On Tuesday, March 6, 2007, at the
invitation of Jay Richardson, I was present at Forest
Lawn Cemetery in Beaumont, Texas for the exhumation and
reburial of his father, J.P. Richardson, known as the
Because of the State Of Texas
Historical Sign recently awarded to the Bopper, and the
fact that a bronze statue will soon be erected at the
grave, and because Forest Lawn does not allow anything
above ground (Grave markers, signs, statues, etc.) at
that specific site, they asked Jay if they could move
the bodies of J.P. and Teetsie Richardson to another
part of the cemetery that would be better suited and
make better availability for anyone that visited. It
would be at the cemetery’s expense. Jay agreed.
As the body of his father was to be
placed in a new casket while it was above ground, Jay
hired Dr. Bass, a world renowned forensic pathologist to
examine the body for various reasons.
Jay asked that I not make any report
on the findings etc., until the story had been released
to AP by Dr. Bass. I agreed, and that story has now been
Here is my report of the happenings
of that day.
The exhumation began about 7:00 a.m.
(The remains of Teetsie Richardson had already been
moved to the new site.) Two feet of water had been found
at the bottom of the disinterment site and Dr. Bass
stated that we might find nothing but ashes and/or mud
if that water had found its way into the casket.
When the vault enclosing the casket
had finally been raised, it was taken to a special area
at the cemetery to be washed off. There was a waterline
on the vault as the water table in that area was fairly
high. Again, we all worried about what we’d find.
The vault was unlocked at both ends
and it cracked open fairly easily, again worrying all of
us that water had penetrated the remains.
The casket was then lifted out using
a crane-lift on a piece of machinery. It was then
brought into the place where the examination was to take
place. The casket color was a dark yellow. In the 1959
photo of it at the funeral home, it seemed to be a bit
darker. Because of the shape and ornamentation, it was
indeed the correct casket, made by the Batesville Casket
Randy Steel, who was present, and I,
and four others, were asked to lift the casket out of
the hearse and place it on a wheeled apparatus to go to
the examining room. We couldn’t move it. Two more came
to help and we finally managed to move it. It was that
Jay Richardson had hired a film crew
for a medical documentary and my wife, Sharon, and I
were asked to take still photos. Another in the room was
John Neil who had known J.P. Richardson since childhood.
He watched everything until the time came to open the
casket and he left. I believe that, aside from cemetery
personnel, about ten other people were present. We were
warned by the cemetery representative about what we
might see, that there would be an odor, and that the
place would be sealed with no one allowed in except who
were there. Further, if any of us decided to leave for
whatever reason, we would not be allowed back in. With
that warning, the casket was unlocked and the lid
There were gasps as we saw what was
inside. It was J.P. Richardson. The body had been
preserved extremely well and was very recognizable. The
head seemed a bit smaller than expected because of loss
of fluids, and the skin was a blueish green color. But
the hair was very dark brown, almost black with the
familiar crewcut. It was indeed, J.P. Richardson.
The skull showed a small crushed spot
on the right side of the head and we all assumed that
some "work" had been done at the Iowa funeral home to
keep the body looking as best as possible. The upper lip
still showed a bit of the "makeup" used when preparing a
J.P. had been buried in a dark suit
that was still completely intact and there was no
evidence of a leopard-skin coat in the casket. (This was
one of my questions. Was he buried in the coat, or with
the coat. The answer is no.)
He wore no shoes, just socks, and the
feet were swollen.
It was obvious that two things took
place to keep the body in that state of preservation.
The funeral home did an excellent job of embalming, and
the casket did an excellent job of keeping the body free
from outside contamination such as air or water etc.
May I mention that the odor was
nauseating and completely filled the building very
quickly. I was told the odor was from the chemicals used
to preserve the body intermingling with any body fluids
that were still present back then.
Two medical technicians were present
(part of the nine people there) and they began taking a
series of X-rays of the body. I was present when those
X-rays had been developed and the damage to the body was
extensive. Dr. Bass, in his AP report stated there were
"massive fractures" but I was not prepared for what I
saw. It seemed that every bone had been fractured at
least once. (Note: Sharon remembers Dr. Bass stating
that the fingers on one hand were intact with no
The skull contained three large
fractures. The right thigh bone was completely separated
at the biggest break. I didn’t count but I saw at least
60-70 bone fractures in those X-rays. The pelvic area
(hips) had extensive fractures, more than Dr. Bass
thought was "normal". I took him aside and stated that
in the crash photos, it appeared that the body of J.P.
had been twisted with the lower torso pointing down and
the upper torso pointing almost upwards. He looked at
the X-ray again and stated that the damage was
conclusive to what I had told him.
After a brief synopsis of the crash
facts, Dr. Bass also concluded that the three bodies
were ejected from the plane at the moment of impact and
tumbled along at that high speed to the place where they
rested and were found.
After his examination, Dr. Bass
looked at Jay and said, "There was no foul play. He did
not crawl from the plane. He died of massive fractures."
He went on to say that no one could have survived the
crash if they had the same damage as that of J.P. They
all died instantly.
The body was then placed in the new
casket, provided by the Batesville Casket Company, and
put in the hearse. A small funeral procession went to
the new resting place in the cemetery. I was honored to
have been a pall bearer during the funeral ceremony when
the body was laid to rest for the second time.
I spoke quietly and said, "Jape, rest
in peace. Someone IS watching over you".
And Jay, the son of the Big Bopper,
was able to finally see his famous father for the first
time in his life, and then be able to say goodbye.