Jim Dorian looked across Blue Ridge Memorial Park in Lenoir,where several of his friends are buried, and just shook his head.
"There'sa special place in hell for the ones who did this," he said. More than 130bronze vases were stolen over the weekend from the grave markers at thecemetery.
Thieves didn't clean out any one specific area, instead, they stolethe vases in such a way that from the street, it doesn't seem like anything iswrong. Walking among the graves, however, it's easy to see where theystruck.
Empty holes in the flat bronzegrave markers showed where each vase used to be. "It's just like stealingfrom the dead," said Dorian.
On Wednesday morning, a flood of visitors came to thecemetery, wanting to see if their loved ones graves had been hit.
"It'shurtful to all of us," said Mary Fleming as looked around. Herfamily's grave sites had not been disturbed but Geneva Rhodes was not so lucky.The vase on her first husband's grave was gone.
"It's just desecrating thedead," she said.
The City of Lenoir is planning to replace the vases thatwere stolen. The cemetery is owned by the city.
Even so, people who walked thesite said the pain of what happened won't go away anytime soon.
"The deadare supposed to rest in peace," said one woman.
Police investigatorshave alerted scrapyards in the area because that's where they believe the thiefwill take the bronze vases.
Each one, when new, could sell retail for about$300 but as scrap are only worth about $6.50 apiece.
"We have alertedscrap yards, put out press releases and are seeking any information onthis," said Police Captain Couby Stilwell.
In 2005, more than a hundredvases were taken from the same cemetery and were found days later at ascrap yard in Gaston County where company officials there said they didn'trealize what the items were.
The vases had been spray painted yellow. Enoughinformation was obtained to make arrests. Officials say laws have beentightened in the scrap and recycle business and there is a chance the crookswon't find any place to sell the bronze vases.
Scrap yards contacted by WBTV onWednesday said they were watching for anyone bringing vases in and had no plansto buy any.
Police hope that just anattempt to sell them will lead to an arrest.
Jim Dorian says the thieves shouldjust quit. "They need to man up or woman up and return the stuff," hesaid. "Put it out front after hours," he added.
Even so, Jim doesn't think that will happen.Police don't either.
Authorities are asking anyone with information to call theLenoir Police Department or Crimestoppers at 828-758-8300. A reward may beoffered for the right information .
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