RALEIGH, N.C. — Johnston County sheriff's investigators believe they have linked a string of thefts involving cemetery vases to a man already charged with similar crimes in Wake County.
Todd Michael Raymond, of Clayton, is in the Wake County jail under a $40,000 bond, accused of stealing hundreds of vases from a Raleigh cemetery.
Johnston County investigators said Wednesday they were able to identify Raymond as a suspect, but they cited the ongoing investigation in refusing to say how they linked him. Charges are pending.
In the past four months, someone has stolen more than 60 bronze vases from headstones from Pinecrest Memorial Park, 12830 US Highway 70 West in Clayton.
"You're talking about just a heartless criminal," Sheriff Steve Bizzell said.
Bizzell said the case is the latest example of items like copper being stolen and sold to scrap yards.
"And I think that the recycling center and the employees there are just as guilty as the man that stole it," he said.
Gregory Brown, who owns a recycling center in Raleigh and takes extra precautions to not buy stolen material, said cases such as the one in which Raymond is charged are giving the industry a "black eye."
At his center, Brown said, every seller must present identification, as required by state law. Brown also has customers sign a contract, and the transaction is captured on camera. Brown refuses obvious stolen items, such as storm drains.
"In fact, we've helped capture some people that have stolen stuff, because we immediately recognized the material, and while the person was here, we called the police," he said.
Authorities hope others will follow that path.