Thursday, January 31, 2013

Cemetery Crime Thursday - Waco, Texas

Jerry Larson photo/Waco Tribune
 
Oakwood Cemetery offering reward for vandals' arrest

by Wendy Gragg
wgragg@wacotrib.com

Tuesday January 29, 2013 

Oakwood Cemetery is offering a reward for information that leads to catching the vandals who smashed and toppled monuments in the historic cemetery during the weekend.

Sometime between 9 p.m. Friday and 7 a.m. Saturday, vandals entered Oakwood Cemetery, 2124 S. Fifth St., which is gated and locked at sundown.

They vandalized between 35 and 40 monuments, causing between $100,000 and $150,000 in damage.

Waco Police Sgt. W. Patrick Swanton said, because of the cost of the damage, the criminal or criminals likely are looking at felony criminal mischief charges.

Oakwood Cemetery Superintendent David Evans spent much of Monday fielding phone calls from across the state and beyond, from people wanting to know if their family plots were harmed, and from Oakwood supporters offering sympathy and money to add to a reward.

Evans didn’t have a set number for the reward late Monday afternoon because the calls kept coming in, he said.

“The reward would be offered to anyone giving information leading to the arrest and indictment of persons responsible (for the damage),” Evans said.

Many of the items damaged can be replaced or fixed, Evans said, but some of the older monuments cannot be repaired.

The busts of the sons of Richard Coke, who was a Civil War captain, twice governor of Texas and three times a U.S. senator, were shattered on the ground, lying in pieces against the foot of Coke’s own monument, one of the most famous in Oakwood.

At the family plot of famous late Wacoan Madison Alexander Cooper Jr., who wrote “Sironia, Texas,” the hands were broken off of a full-size angel.

A number of monuments that were just toppled over were set upright Monday, with the help of Cen-Tex Monuments, which donated manpower and equipment to help with Oakwood’s cleanup.

My photo of the Cooper
angel, July 2012 -
notice the hands.
“I could almost chalk it up to a juvenile prank if they were all just pushed over, but with the aggressive nature of the vandalism I don’t know what to think,” Evans said.

He said there doesn’t appear to be any rhyme or reason to what the criminals vandalized.

“It’s just unimaginable. There’s no reason to do something like this,” Swanton said Monday.

Since the Waco Police Department first mentioned the Oakwood vandalism on Facebook on Saturday, people have expressed their disgust with the crimes, Swanton said.

“People feel like, as a whole, the city has been violated by this,” he said, adding that upset citizens make great witnesses or tipsters.
Cooper Angel this week -
Jerry Larson photo

“We think we’ll get information that will certainly be beneficial in us solving the case,” Swanton said.

Rewards are helpful, he said, and people with information also may contact the police through Crime Stoppers and do not have to give their names.

“We don’t care who tells us, we just want to know who it was who did this so we can arrest the thugs responsible,” Swanton said.

Anyone with information can call the Waco Police Department at 750-7500 or Waco Crime Stoppers at 753-HELP (4357).

My photo - July 2012. Oakwood is a beautiful cemetery!