Tribune-Courier News Reporter
In a place meant to honor those who have perished, some are finding difficulty feeling anything but anger in the aftermath of vandalism to numerous tombstones at Union Ridge Cemetery, in Aurora, last week.
Virginia Smith, 71, who has a tombstone in the cemetery, said the vandalism was discovered last Wednesday night during mid-week services, but it could have happened any time after church Sunday night.
Two churches – Union Ridge Baptist and Union Ridge Methodist – share the cemetery.
Smith said the person or people that vandalized the tombstones must have known the owners personally.
“It looks like they knew us from the church – we all have ties to the Baptist church,” she said. “I used to go to Union Ridge, but now I go to Aurora Baptist up the road.”
Smith said the people whose tombstones were spray-painted were all friends so it didn’t seem like a random event. In addition to spray-painting tombstones, vandals also painted vulgarities leading to the grave sites.
“This was someone who doesn’t like us and wanted to cause problems,” Smith said.
Smith said her tombstone was recently set on the property during funeral arrangement preplanning. Vandals painted over an intricate lake scene which had been engraved on it.
“My husband and I have retired here and I just don’t know what to think about all of it,” she said. “The scene we had placed on it wasn’t cheap and they ruined it with the paint. If I can’t get that paint off it could cost as much as $2,500 to replace it and we don’t have that kind of money lying around.”
Smith said officials with the sheriff’s department came out to the cemetery Thursday morning to collect evidence including broken beer bottles that had been smashed over several of the vandalized tombstones.
Chief Deputy David Maddox, of the Marshall County Sheriff’s Department, said when he arrived on scene he took some of the larger bottle fragments in for processing, hoping to find fingerprints.
“We have had some problems with vandalism in the area before, but never anything like this,” he said.
Smith said last year a single tombstone was spray-painted and the family of the deceased offered up a $1,000 reward to anyone with information regarding the crime, but no one had come forward.
Smith is hoping now that five families have been victimized someone will be willing to talk.
“This doesn’t make any sense to any of us,” she said. “I will never understand how someone could be so disrespectful. We will continue doing whatever it takes to make people aware of this because we want to know who did it.”
Anyone with information is asked to call the Marshall County Sheriff’s Department at 270-527-3112.