Archive for Friday, January 18, 2013

Reward offered for information leading to cemetery vandals

January 18, 2013

A $3,000 reward is being offered for information leading to the arrest and prosecution of those responsible for knocking over and damaging 31 headstones and grave markers recently in the 6000 block of Quivira Road.

The reward is being offered by the city of Shawnee and the Catholic Cemeteries of Northeast Kansas, which own the three adjoining cemeteries where vandals struck sometime between the evening of Friday, Jan. 11, and the morning of Saturday, Jan. 12. The city operates Old Shawnee and Pleasant View cemeteries, and Catholic Cemeteries of Northeast Kansas owns the St. Joseph Cemetery.

Capt. Bill Hisle of the Shawnee Police Department said no tire tracks were found near the damaged markers, “so in all likelihood, this was probably teenage kids sort of wandering through.” Police believe more than one vandal was involved in desecrating the burial sites due to the large size of some of the markers that were toppled.

Fortunately, Hisle said, no markers were broken in two, but several were gouged and cracked. It took city parks department employees several hours to put the 19 markers toppled in the city-owned cemeteries back in place, he added, and some of the headstones will require further repairs. Hisle said he could not yet put a dollar value on the total damages in the city-owned cemeteries.

Bob Chenoweth, executive director of Catholic Cemeteries of Northeast Kansas, estimated that $5,000 to $10,000 worth of damage was done to the 12 markers knocked over in St. Joseph Cemetery.

“We’ve also spent two days and over $1,000 in man-hours and equipment getting them back up,” Chenoweth said.

Chenoweth said he didn’t know of any previous incidents of vandalism at St. Joseph Cemetery, and he hopes the desecration remains a rare phenomenon in the hard-to-secure cemetery.

“That’s a huge piece of property, so it would be expensive to fence, and even if we did, people could still get over it,” Chenoweth said. “I guess you could take it to extremes and put up a high fence with concertina wire on top. But that sure wouldn’t look nice.”

Perhaps the best solution, at this point, is stepped-up police patrols in the area, Chenoweth said. He and Hisle are also hoping the public will help with information that leads to apprehension of the vandals. Those with leads are urged to call the police department at 913-631-2155.

“Obviously, the worst of this is seeing a family member’s marker turned over, which shows a lot of disrespect,” Hisle said.

Cemetery vandalism also threatens the community’s history, he said.

“Some of the stones in that area date back to the 1800s,” Hisle said, “and they kind of tell the story of the people who came before us.”

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