Teenage vandals struck the Cypress Valley Cemetery Wednesday morning, overturning 66 headstones and smashing some to the point that Gordon Higgins, a member of the cemetery board, isn’t sure if they can be pieced back together.
“They smashed headstones and then they would use those smaller pieces to break up the other ones,” Maj. Andy Shock of the Faulkner County Sheriff’s Office said.
For whatever reason, Higgins said, the teens seemed to have picked out the oldest tombstones to destroy.
The vandals, one 15 and the other 16, were arrested shortly after 9 a.m., and reportedly told a deputy that they did it because they were bored.
They were discovered by Darryl Staggs and Joe Giovanni, workers at the wastewater treatment plant on Stanley Road about 300 yards from the cemetery and a few miles southeast of Vilonia. According to plant superintendent Bill Reed, Giovanni and Staggs heard odd noises coming from the direction of the cemetery and decided to investigate.
“I’m proud of my employees for being observant and doing the right thing,” Reed said.
Shock said that the workers had seen two teens loitering in the cemetery parking lot while they were driving by at about 8 a.m., and suspected that these teens may have been up to some sort of mischief when they started hearing “thuds” coming from the cemetery. The workers went to a vantage point and saw the teens kicking headstones over, Shock said.
Staggs said that the teens unsuccessfully tried to hide behind a tree in the cemetery when he and Giovanni arrived. They were told to sit down and wait for police to arrive.
They told a deputy that they didn’t know what the “big deal” was, Shock said, and were asking when they would get to go home and were trying to nap while being transported from the scene. They were jailed at the juvenile detention center to await arraignment before Circuit Judge Rhonda Wood, probably on Friday.
Authorities estimate the damage to be about $50,000, Shock said, though he added that he was unsure how a dollar amount could be set for a 100-year-old headstone. Staggs said that some of the headstones that were all-but-pulverized were irreplaceable 19th century markers that were hand-cut and lettered, probably by the deceased’s family members.
At any rate, Shock said, the dollar amount is sufficient to warrant felony charges, and authorities are pursuing the class-C felony offense of “the destruction or removal of a cemetery or grave marker,” as well as misdemeanor criminal trespass.
(Staff writer Joe Lamb can be reached at 505-1238 or by E-mail at email@example.com. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit.)