The Clinton City Council has authorized up to $7,500 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for vandalizing 20 headstones at Springvale Cemetery over the weekend, an act the police chief called “stupid” and hurtful.
Clinton Police Chief Jay Tilley said the incident is believed to have occurred sometime late Friday night or early Saturday morning. The damage was reported by some passersby who noticed several broken and upturned headstones off Spivey Street, not far from Elizabeth Street, while on their morning walk around 6:30 a.m. Saturday.
“It was 20 gravestones of different ages, some were really old and others were newer,” Tilley remarked. “They were overturned and some of them were picked up and thrown against other grave markers — a variety of things done to damage these gravestones, just stupid stuff to reek havoc and damage.”
Tilley said this is the first incident he can recall where a gravestone in one of the city-owned and operated cemeteries was damaged in such a way, let alone so many at one time.
“We did process the gravestones for latent prints,” said Tilley, noting no leads in the case thus far. “Then again, that’s why we’re offering the reward.”
During a Tuesday night planning session, Mayor Lew Starling asked for a motion to authorize Tilley to offer up to $7,500 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible. That motion was made by Councilman Marcus Becton, seconded by Neal Strickland and approved unanimously.
Tilley said the reward will start off at $2,000.
Those driving, jogging or walking through the area will notice little out of place now, as the City of Clinton Public Works crews have fixed the majority of the damage, put markers back in place and otherwise cleaned up the mess left by uncaring individuals.
“A lot of the damage has been cleaned up,” the police chief said. “Public Works — (director Jeff Vreugdenhil) and his guys — cleaned that up Tuesday.”
However, it’s about more than just physical property damage when talking about something so sacred, Tilley said. Desecrating a monument of remembrance to a loved one inflicts a deeper pain.
“The problem with these kind of incidents is not always the damage because that can be repaired,” he remarked. “But it’s the hurt those families feel when they see the graves of their loved ones damaged.”
Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-249-4616. Follow us on twitter @SampsonInd.