Local News

Weldon Police Chief: Cemetery Thefts 'Heinous, Senseless'

Posted September 21, 2007 7:12 p.m. EDT

— For the second time in recent weeks, police investigated a theft at a cemetery. The first one happened in Roxboro, and the latest happened in the Halifax County town of Weldon.

Police arrested a man for stealing veterans' grave stones, but the crime has some in the community outraged. Police said it’s a crime they just don’t understand.

“To deface a cemetery grave site is just a heinous, senseless ordeal,” said Weldon Police Chief Mark Macon.

On Aug. 17, Weldon police received a report of a theft at Oak Ridge Cemetery. The thief targeted three veterans’ grave sites, stealing three nameplates. About a month later, police got a break in the case when someone tried to sell the nameplates for their copper.

Police arrested and charged Dedric Dwayne Gray with the crime.

It couldn’t get much lower than that,” said Matthew Delk, Halifax County’s manager and an Iraqi War veteran. “I think we’re from a culture here that respects the dead and particularly respects our veterans, especially our deceased veterans.”

Macon said he has heard of people stealing copper from abandoned buildings and other places, but never from a grave site. Police say Gray broke the nameplates into pieces before trying to sell them.

Authorities have been trying to identify one of the graves, and they've been unable to locate any other family members. Delk said there's not much people can do to prevent something like this from happening again.

Gray faces two counts of defacing a grave site and possession of stolen property. Police said they couldn't prove Gray was responsible for all the thefts, and that's why he's only facing two counts. Both charges are felonies.

A similar crime happened in Roxboro earlier this month. About 20 grave sites were damaged at the Person Memorial Cemetery on Durham Road. Police still haven't made any arrests.

Soon, there will be tougher punishments for cemetery vandals. Starting in December, if the damage exceeds $1,000, it will be considered a felony.