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Suspects identified in Williamsport cemetery vandalism

October 15, 2008|By HEATHER KEELS

WILLIAMSPORT -- The Washington County Sheriff's Department has identified two suspects in the Oct. 5 vandalism that left several dozen large tombstones overturned at River View Cemetery in Williamsport, Deputy Jason Willison said.

No charges have been filed, but one suspect has been interviewed and another has been identified, Willison said. He declined to give further details because the investigation is ongoing.

Damage from the vandalism was estimated at $22,350, Craig Osborne, president of the River View Cemetery Association's Board of Directors, told the Williamsport Town Council Monday. Few of the monuments will need to be replaced, but many will need new foundations, Osborne said.

The Williamsport Town Council voted Monday to pay for the repairs from the town's general fund, with the possibility of reimbursement from insurance or through restitution from those responsible.

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The town owns the cemetery and cares for it in a joint effort with Osborne Funeral Home.

Mayor James G. McCleaf II said local outcry over the incident has been "unbelievable," with some residents calling the town in tears. Osborne said he had seen a similar response.

"We were all raised not to mess with others' property, but to me, that takes it to a whole new level," Osborne said.

Several local business owners have talked about offering a reward for information about the vandalism, Osborne said. McCleaf said the town would consider matching reward money raised by local businesses.

McCleaf also called on local churches and organizations to join the town in a fundraising effort to raise money for a full restoration of the cemetery, including sandblasting and cleaning older stones to make them legible, leveling old monuments and straightening some of the rows.

The town has been talking for years about restoring the historic cemetery, which dates to 1786 and includes the grave of Williamsport's founder, Otho Holland Williams, Osborne said.

McCleaf said he hoped by holding fundraisers, such as a Christmas walkthrough and a luminaria event, the town could turn the recent attention to the cemetery into something positive.

"As bad as it is, this gives a lot of opportunity for people to (refamiliarize) themselves with the cemetery and who is there," McCleaf said. "Maybe a lot of good will come out of something terrible."

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