Tuesday, July 16, 2002

Cemetery vandalism stumps police

By Karen Vance
Enquirer contributor

        WILLIAMSBURG - Police are seeking information about who toppled and damaged 124 gravestones, some nearly 200 years old, in the Williamsburg Township Cemetery late Sunday or early Monday.

        “We have some ideas, but we have no concrete suspects. No leads,” said Williamsburg Police Chief Jim Fritz. “We canvassed the neighborhood and talked to the 24-hour security at a nearby business. Nobody heard or saw a thing.”

        Earl Whiteman, the cemetery sexton, discovered the damage at about 7:45 a.m. Monday at the cemetery, located at 824 Gay Street in west Williamsburg. The stones had been upright at about 8 p.m. the night before.

        “I can't even begin to guess at the cost of all the damage,” Mr. Whiteman said. “It kind of makes me sick. I don't know what they've gained by doing this. This is sacred ground.”

        The cemetery houses three generations of Williamsburg families, and the oldest section of the cemetery, with stones dating back to 1792, was one of the hardest hit. A stone dating back to June 1851 appeared to be one of the most severely damaged, lying on its side and cracked into six pieces.

        “I don't even know where to start on that one, it's so badly damaged,” Mr. Whiteman said.

        He said this was the worst damage he's seen in 23 years as the cemetery's caretaker.

        Officers from both the Williamsburg police department and Clermont County Sheriff's Office are investigating the vandalism because part of the cemetery is in the village and part is in the township. Chief Fritz said he hopes someone will come forward with information about who caused the damage.

        “They're lucky they didn't get hurt doing it,” Chief Fritz said. “Some of these stones are pretty heavy.”

        Williamsburg residents came to the cemetery in a steady stream Monday afternoon as word spread about the damage. Many checked on family gravestones.

        Resident Susan Dixon came to check on her husband's gravestone, located in a newer area of the cemetery that seemed untouched.

        “It's just unbelievable,” Mrs. Dixon said, surveying the cemetery through tears. “I think they ought to make the kids who did this dig graves for the next 20 years. Some of this is irreplaceable. They just don't know how much this hurts.”

        Anyone with information about the vandalism at the Williamsburg Township Cemetery can contact the Williamsburg Police at 724-2261 or the Investigations Division of the Clermont County Sheriff's Office at 732-7545.


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