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Cemetery vandalism angers Williamsport residents

October 07, 2008|By ERIN JULIUS

WILLIAMSPORT -- Vandals wreaked havoc on a "silent city of the dead" Sunday, knocking over several dozen large tombstones at Riverview Cemetery in Williamsport.

On Monday, a citizen out for a morning walk reported the damage to town employees, said Donnie Stotelmyer, town clerk.

For years, Wilma Moats' father took care of the graveyard for the town of Williamsport. On Monday afternoon, Moats sat on her father's front porch on Vermont Street, across from the cemetery, shaking her head as she discussed the damage.

"It's terrible," she said. "Whoever did it ought to be shot," Moats said.

Two Washington County Sheriff's deputies on Monday afternoon were dusting for fingerprints on the damaged tombstones, taking care not to use any chemicals that would cause further damage.

Between 50 and 55 tombstones were knocked down, Deputy Corey McCarthy said. Of those, about five stones were cracked, he said. The damage was probably done Sunday night, McCarthy said.

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According to an old sign posted at the cemetery's front entrance, its origins rest in "the November session of the General Assembly of Maryland in the year 1786 when it was incorporated by a special act of that body."

Gen. Otho Holland Williams, founder of the town, donated the land.

In 1881, a ladies' association was organized to care for "this silent city of the dead."

Care of the cemetery used to be in the hands of a Rotary Club and, most recently, was a joint effort by the town and Osborne Funeral Home in Williamsport, said Craig Osborne, president of the Riverview Cemetery Association's Board of Directors.

The town owns the cemetery.

"We just want to preserve history of the cemetery ... We want to make sure it doesn't get left behind," Osborne said.

Burial plots in the cemetery are no longer available, but eight to 10 people are still buried there each year, Osborne said. The funeral home is responsible for maintaining the cemetery's records.

Osborne was notified about the damage Monday morning.

"It was the last thing I expected," he said. The vandalism shows a "complete lack of respect," he said.

Most of the damage can be fixed, Osborne said. He is expecting a repair estimate by Tuesday, he said.

Osborne and Stotelmyer said they expected insurance to cover repair costs.

Mayor James G. McCleaf and the town council were told about the damage, Stotelmyer said.

Because some of the markers are quite large, Stotelmyer believes more than one person was involved, he said.

"I don't know why anybody would do that," he said. "I don't know what they gained."

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