01/16/07 — Vandals hit local family's cemetery

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Vandals hit local family's cemetery

By Lee Williams
Published in News on January 16, 2007 1:51 PM

Gene Cox and his in-laws were devastated when they learned a group of teens allegedly trashed a century-old family cemetery on Dobbersville Road around Thanksgiving leaving more than $1,500 in damage.

Cox doesn't know what would provoke a stranger to disturb someone's final resting place, but he does know one thing: he wants those responsible to pay for defacing the Best family cemetery.

So far, at least one teen has been collared for his alleged part in the crime. Ricky Lynn Baker II, 17, of Mill Creek, was charged with defacing and desecrating the Best family gravesite, Wayne County Sheriff's Office Chief Investigator George Raecher said.

Raecher said Baker has refused to talk to authorities, but he surmised "meanness" is what prompted Baker to allegedly destroy gravestones in the cemetery.

"They were out in the area, a rural area," Raecher said. "It's a family cemetery out in the country. He decided to tear the place up and that's what he did."

Sheriff's Dept. Detective Rick Farfour said 14 gravestones were damaged, causing damages in the excess of $1,000.

"They were knocked over and some were busted in half," Farfour said.

Some of the gravestones damaged date back to the 1800s and cannot be replaced, he said.

Farfour said witnesses fingered Baker as the sole perpetrator.

But Cox, who spoke on behalf of his wife, a member of the Best Family, isn't so sure. He said he believes two juveniles also were involved.

"I don't think just one person did this," Cox said while standing in the cemetery located in the Grantham community. "That thing right there weighs about 1,500 to 2,000 pounds. How can one person just do this?"

Cox shook his head in disgust as he stared at an overturned headstone and a broken flower pot that once adorned the monument.

Cox said he believed the vandalism happened over a two-day period. The first day, the vandals tore up the cemetery. They came back the following day to finish the job -- and to remove two video cameras that might have captured their mischievous deeds.

Cox said the incident has outraged the family and upset others in the Grantham community who worry vandals might strike at their family cemetery next.

Some of the tombstones damaged were made of marble and could cost about $7,000 to replace. Some of the single tombstones that were damaged or destroyed cannot be replaced. Cox said it will take four men and a day's work to restore the gravestones.

Cox said he believes the suspects should pay restitution for the damage, but more importantly, he and the Best family wants answers.

"Why would you do this to a family cemetery?" Cox said sadly. "What did they have to gain from this besides upsetting the family?"