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Vandals damage more than 80 tombstones at Hartsburg cemetery

Wednesday, June 30, 2010 | 6:55 p.m. CDT
Approximately 80 tombstones were reported toppled at the Goshen Primitive Baptist Church cemetery in Hartsburg on Wednesday. The cemetery is surrounded by a chain-link fence that is approximately 4 feet high, but there are no other deterrents to vandals or trespassers.

HARTSBURG — Vandals damaged more than 80 tombstones last weekend at Goshen Baptist Church Cemetery near Hartsburg, according to a Goshen Primitive Baptist Church member and the Boone County Sheriff's Department.

Detective Tom O'Sullivan of the Sheriff's Department said the crime most likely occurred Saturday night or Sunday morning and caused about $2,000 in damage.

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Church member Harold Nichols reported the crime to the Sheriff's Department shortly after 11 a.m. Sunday. Nichols said Wednesday that a total of 66 tombstones had been turned over, and an additional 18 tombstones had been broken. The cemetery has about 900 tombstones.

O'Sullivan said the department had no suspects Wednesday. He said the department sent officers to the area Wednesday afternoon to check with neighbors to see if anyone recalled seeing or hearing something out of the ordinary.

Nichols said many members of the church noticed the vandalism as they arrived for services Sunday morning.

"It wasn't hard to tell," Nichols said.

Nichols said he has both friends and family buried in the cemetery, but he said that did not affect his reaction to the vandalism.

"That's just a terrible thing to do to any cemetery," Nichols said.

O'Sullivan attributed the crime to "plain stupidity and total disrespect for a sacred place."

He said that though cemetery vandalism has taken place in Boone County, it is a rare occurrence.

"I can't tell you when the last time was, and I've been here 22 years," he said.

Nichols said he and other church members have started repairing the tombstones they can, pouring new concrete bases for some and piecing others together with non-rusting metal strips. He said they have repaired about 10 tombstones so far.

"I'm just sorry that they couldn't find anything better to do besides tear apart a cemetery," Nichols said regarding the vandals.


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