Two Teens Charged with Spring Hope Cemetery...
Posted October 27, 1997 12:00 a.m. EST
SPRING HOPE — Two teenagers, one 14 and one 15-years-old, have been charged with at least one felony each for vandalizing a Nash County cemetery over the weekend. More than 100 headstones and graves were desecrated.
The cemetery is traditionally an African-American facility and the suspected vandals are white, but authorities say the crime was not racially motivated. Police were talking to the teens and their parents Monday afternoon. The arrest and charges were expected to follow.
For their part, the teens say they were simply walking through the area and had nothing to do. They say the spent about three hours destroying flowers, and headstones.
Allegedly, they used a stone or other heavy object to crack open a mausoleum. That is considered desecration of a grave and is a felony. There was also a satanic symbol scratched into one of the headstones.
The vandalism took place at Meeks Cemetery, one of the oldest African-American cemeteries in the area.
The teens live within a three-mile radius of Spring Lake. Authorities said the pair have never been in any known trouble before.
Because some of the stones damaged weigh nearly 300 pounds and would be extremely difficult for one person to move, law officers thought from the start that they would be looking for several culprits.
The vandalism left the community wondering not only who did it, but why. Carmen Vick, whose relatives are buried at Meeks, said nothing like that has ever happened in the town before. "Not this drastic. Not like this," she said, as she stood in the cemetery.
The president of the local NAACP chapter, Bill Newkirk, said those who damage cemeteries should be punished as much as the law will allow.
The headstone from Newkirk's father's grave was taken up and used to smash through the grave of someone else.
Peggy Blackman, many of whose forebears are buried here and whose father was buried at Meeks in 1992, said she takes the destruction very personally. She said her father died violently and now he can't even rest in peace. Her voice was distraught as she asked what the world is coming to, and declared that such violence doesn't make sense.
In the cold drizzle of an October Sunday morning, Nash Sheriff Jimmy Grimes was among those surveying the damage, astonished and appalled by the extent of what he saw. Grimes said in his 25-year career in law enforcement he has sometimes seen one to two headstones turned over in a cemetery, but never anything of this magnitude.
The Nash County Sheriff's office is offering a $3500 reward for information on the vandals. Anyone with further knowledge about the crime is asked to call 919-459-4121.
A deputy who allegedly caught the two teens stealing a 4-wheel drive vehicle earlier in the evening was the first to suspect them in connection with the vandalism. It is likely the two will be taken into custody.