Tangipahoa arrests teens in cemetery vandalism
By DEBRA LEMOINE
Advocate Florida parishes bureau
Published: Sep 13, 2007 – Page: 2B
INDEPENDENCE Tangipahoa Parish sheriff’s deputies arrested two teenage boys Wednesday afternoon under suspicion in the desecration during the past two weeks of more than 100 graves in a century-old cemetery, officials said.
A 12-year-old boy and a 14-year-old boy were arrested after deputies received an anonymous tip, sheriff’s spokeswoman Blair Foster said.
No details on motive or how the boys damaged the graves were available Wednesday because detectives were still interviewing the boys, Chief Deputy Dennis Pevey said.
More arrests are expected today, Pevey said.
The two boys, whose names were not released because of their age, were arrested and booked into the Florida Parishes Juvenile Detention Center in Robert on 108 counts of grave desecration and one count of criminal trespass, Pevey said.
Both crimes are misdemeanor offenses and carry a potential penalty of $500 fines and six months jail time, he said.
The boys are believed to have damaged more than 100 graves at the Colonial Cemetery in Independence on U.S. 51 on Aug. 25 or 26 as well as on Saturday or Sunday, deputies said.
The most extensive damage occurred in August when it appeared vandals may have knocked over marble, cement or wooden crosses on above-ground tombs in a section of the cemetery with graves dating from the 1920s to 1960s. In some cases, the fallen crosses took parts of the tomb walls with them.
The more recent damage was to graves that are a couple of years old, deputies said.
The Colonial Cemetery Association, the nonprofit that owns the cemetery, has worked since the first attacks to fix the graves, said Vincent Spitale, association president.
Spitale said he hopes to have most of the repairs done by the end of this week.
However, the association is still collecting donations to offset costs for repairs, especially for tombs of the deceased whose relatives have moved away from the area, Spitale said. As of Wednesday, people have donated close to $1,100 to the Colonial Cemetery Vandalism Fund at Hancock Bank, he said.
Spitale said he is happy to hear of the arrests.
“Maybe I can sleep a little better,” Spitale said. “I hope this will be the end of it.”
The 20-acre cemetery is one of the oldest in the Independence area of Tangipahoa Parish with graves dating back to the late 1800s, Spitale said. Many of the names carved into markers are those of Italian families that settled the area in the late 1800s and early 1900s.