10/01/08 — Man charged with thefts of vases from cemeteries

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Man charged with thefts of vases from cemeteries

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on October 1, 2008 1:53 PM

Interviews with a suspect accused of stealing about 30 bronze vases from grave sites showed he may have gotten the idea from a news report, authorities said this morning.

Wayne County Sheriff's Office Capt. Tom Effler said Michael Scott Butts is accused of stealing 15 of the vases on Friday last week.

Then, on Monday, another 15 vases were reported stolen from Wayne Memorial Park Cemetery on U.S. 117 South in Dudley, Effler said.

The bronze markers are expensive, costing about $300 apiece.

When Detective Lt. Carl Lancaster talked to Butts, he learned that Butts read about another theft at Riverview Memorial Gardens in Spring Lake.

Lancaster reported that Butts probably acted on the theft in Dudley after getting the idea from that news report.

Butts' alleged thefts of 30 vases totals about $9,000 in property belonging to families who had buried their loved ones at Wayne Memorial Park.

After the alleged theft, Butts turned the vases in for cash at local scrap yards, and authorities believe that some of them were probably destroyed for scrap.

"The best we can tell, yes, some of them were probably destroyed," he said.

Victims of the thefts included 11 graves near the American Legion building, according to the Sheriff's Office report.

Although the bronze vases hold high value when sold to people holding funerals, they are worth a lot less when cashed in as scrap, Effler said.

"I think he probably got less than $100 for them, at least one time he sold (the vases)," he said. "Not a whole lot."

Effler said that Butts was looking for alternative ways to make cash, and made off in a less-than-ideal getaway vehicle. "(He was) just trying to make some money," Effler said. "He drives a moped. He was on a moped when he did it."