Friday, Jul. 27, 2012
Vandals topple headstones in cemetery
Nearly four dozen graves targeted
By Bethany Bashiou
Sisters Rosie Maldonado, 60, and Estella Magana, 62, both of Belton, were among the dozens of onlookers who filed into the Belton Cemetery on the afternoon of July 23 to take a glimpse of the work vandals had done overnight.
Belton Police Sgt. Brad Swanson said that likely a group of three or four teenagers came through the cemetery between of 10 p.m. July 22 and 5:30 a.m. July 23, toppling over 45 headstones within one lane of the cemetery, creating more pain for family and friends who have already lost so much.
The 20-acre cemetery is at the northwest corner of S. Scott Avenue and Cambridge Road, south of Belton High School.
An individual who routinely walks through the cemetery noticed the damage that morning and alerted police. Police then alerted Elmer Larkey, board president of the Belton Cemetery Association.
As of July 25, no arrests had been made.
Larkey said the headstones weigh around 500-600 pounds each. A much larger headstone weighing as much as 4,000 pounds was also tipped over.
“It’s heartbreaking,” Magana said. “I feel for everybody. They’re not cheap.”
Maldonado and Magana recently placed a flat headstone at their parent’s grave at the cemetery. The sisters noticed at least nine upright headstones near their parents had been tipped over.
Amelia Myers, 31, Belton, also stopped by to check on the graves of loved ones Monday night.
“I’ve never seen anything like this. It’s scary,” she said. “When I heard about this, it was really devastating.”
Swanson said that it also appeared that the vandals jumped a fence at the north end of the cemetery into the stadium at Belton High School, and broke into a shed underneath the bleachers. Items in the shed were moved around, Swanson said, but nothing was reportedly stolen. Police also discovered flowers, likely from the gravesites, in the shed.
Police contacted residents west of the cemetery as part of their investigation Monday morning.
“This is outright despicable,” said 22-year-old Cody Akins, whose backyard looks out to the cemetery.
Akins added that during the three years he has been living in his present home, his car has been vandalized twice.
The Belton Cemetery Association is offering a $2,000 reward for information about the vandals. Anyone with information is asked to call the Crime Stoppers TIPS Hotline at 816-474-8477.
The cemetery is owned and managed by the Belton Cemetery Association and dates to 1875. The cemetery or association is not connected with the city.