Four boys charged in cemetery vandalism

October 19, 2009|By ERIN JULIUS

WILLIAMSPORT -- Three 10-year-old boys and a 13-year-old boy have been charged with damaging as many as 60 headstones last week at River View Cemetery in Williamsport, police said Monday.

The boys, all of whom live in Williamsport, were charged through the Department of Juvenile Services, each with one count of malicious destruction of property more than $500 and one count of destroying a funerary object, the Washington County Sheriff's Department said in a news release.

A Williamsport resident reported the damage Wednesday, police said.

Deputy Carl Witmer said 40 to 60 headstones were vandalized and investigators estimated the damage at $20,000 to $40,000.

"No one explained why they did it," Witmer said.

Tombstones were pushed off their bases and some of those stones were broken, Witmer said.

The incident comes just a little more than a year after vandals knocked over several dozen large tombstones at the cemetery on Oct. 5, 2008.


Mayor James G. McCleaf II said he was shocked to find the cemetery was struck again by vandals.

"I don't understand what fun it is to push over a tombstone," McCleaf said.

Investigators identified suspects in the 2008 vandalism, but no charges were filed, Deputy Corey McCarthy said Monday.

The suspects never confessed and they had alibis, he said.

"We went about as far as we could go last year," McCarthy said.

Witmer, who is investigating last week's vandalism, said the incidents probably are not related.

Two of the boys charged lived in another part of the county in October 2008, Witmer said.

Care of the cemetery, which is owned by the town, used to be in the hands of a Rotary Club. Most recently, it was a joint effort by the town and Osborne Funeral Home in Williamsport.

Last year's damage was expected to cost about $22,000, said Craig Osborne, president of the River View Cemetery Association's Board of Directors.

About $11,000 worth of work has been completed and paid for, he said. The money came from donations and fundraisers, Osborne said.

Williamsport United Methodist Church in November 2008 sold meatloaf dinners to help raise money. A spaghetti dinner was held later that month at the Williamsport Fire Hall.

Osborne was to meet today with someone from Hammaker Memorials to put together an estimate for repairing the most recent damage.

The association is trying to improve River View Cemetery and the vandalism sets back its efforts, Osborne said.

"We're trying to make things as nice as we can," he said.

The town intends to make use of inmate labor provided by the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, according to Osborne and McCleaf.

While most of the repairs of vandalism will have to be made by professionals, inmates can help level sunken graves, paint fences and clean brush, Osborne said.

Anyone wishing to contribute to repair efforts may call the Williamsport town office at 301-223-7711.

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