Trying to Find Her Father’s Grave

(WSVN) - In 1963, her father walked out the door and never returned. Decades later, she discovered he was killed but can’t find his grave. That’s why she turned to Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.

Dalia will never forget that day in the early 1960s as her father left the house.

Dalia Santana, searching for father’s grave: “And I was 6. He left in a rush, and I wanted to give him a kiss.”

Dalia says she remembers hollering to her dad from the window.

Dalia Santana: “And I went into the window and called him, you know, called him and called him. He didn’t even look back, and I really wanted that hug.”

As a 6-year-old, Dalia had no idea her mother and father didn’t get along and thought her father would soon be home.

Dalia Santana: “I always waited for him at the door. I was a daddy’s girl waiting for him and never showed up.”

As the years passed, no one would tell Dalia about her dad Marino Martinez — just one short reply from her grandmother.

Dalia Santana: “And then, one day, my grandmother, ‘No, no, he just left us,’ and I couldn’t believe it.”

Decades passed, Dalia’s mother got dementia, her grandmother passed away, and Dalia went through her papers.

Dalia Santana: “And I found his death certificate, and I just sat there and cried. I just couldn’t believe it that he was really dead.”

Her father had not abandoned her.

According to a newspaper we found, he was murdered in downtown Miami in 1963, leaving more unanswered questions.

Dalia Santana: “I don’t even know what happened. He was murdered, and I don’t even know why.”

The death certificate said Marino was buried in 1963 at a cemetery that, at that time, was called Paradise Memorial.

Dalia Santana: “I want to find his remains. I want to know where he was buried. I want to go there and be able to grieve.”

But most of the graves in this section are not marked. Dalia’s father is buried out here but where?

Dalia Santana: “The whole thing is wrong.”

The state does require cemeteries to keep records of grave sites but nothing can be done if the records from the ’60s were lost.

The current owners of Graceland South said since the prior owners of the property didn’t document where Marino Martinez’s grave was located and there are very few markers out here, unfortunately, there is nothing they can do.

They did build a wall with the names of all the people buried in that part of the cemetery from 1959 to 1978.

We went there with Dalia, as she saw her father’s name for the first time.

Dalia Santana: “Oh, my God. I can’t believe this. Oh, my God. Oh, my God.”

I heard Dalia whisper, “He’s not coming back anymore” and realized she had still hoped her father was alive.

Dalia Santana: “I thought someday he would just pop up and say, ‘Here I am.’ I am sorry.”

Her father is dead, but seeing his name here did bring a little relief to Dalia.

Dalia Santana: “It’s hard, but it’s better to know that he didn’t walk out. That makes me feel a lot better that he didn’t walk out.”

He didn’t abandon his daughter. He was murdered, and 58 years later, an adult Dalia still has the same regret that little 6-year-old had as he walked away for the last time.

Dalia Santana: “I wish I would have given him that last kiss. That’s the only thing that really kills me.”

So sorry, Dalia, so sorry, and we discovered in the ’60s, the Miami-Dade Clerk’s office did record grave sites like you would record the purchase of a house today.

The clerk’s office was nice enough to search through their records from the ’60s, but apparently, Dalia’s grandmother didn’t record the purchase of the grave site. Just one more bit of bad news for Dalia.

Reporter: Patrick Fraser at
Miami-Dade: 305-953-WSVN
Broward: 954-761-WSVN

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