By Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal Oxford Bureau
MYRTLE – Vandals broke or overturned about 140 gravestones in a Union County cemetery and more than three dozen at the Booneville Cemetery sometime over the weekend.
Despite the similarity of the crimes, authorities believe they were carried out by different sets of people.
“The damage at Union Hill was very extensive,” said Jimmy Edwards, chief deputy with the Union County Sheriff’s Department.
Dale Smithey, whose first wife is buried in Union Hill, surmised that a team of people conspired to do the damage there.
“Those things are heavy,” he said, noting the larger stones that were displaced. “It takes several men to move some of them.”
The Union Hill cemetery is in two sections on opposite sides of a Union County road. The tombstones on the southwest side, which include a massive black memorial for Barry Wayne Mayo, a U.S. Army private who died in 2007 in Iraq, were untouched.
Reactions voiced since the crimes were discovered range from anger and grief to concern for the perpetrators.
“I don’t know what would make somebody do this kind of thing. It seems like it’s just pure meanness,” Edwards said.
Charles Crabb of Booneville Monument was surveying the damage in Booneville Cemetery.
“I’m sorry we’ve had this to happen, but God even loves (the perpetrators),” he asserted. “He hates their ways, but he still loves them.”
Sarah Davis was coming to check on her sister’s grave marker at the Booneville Cemetery. She directed genteel humor toward the criminals but left no doubt of her consternation.
“I’m going to have to bring my flyswatter up here,” she said. “These people need to be punished.”
Joyce Matthews, who has many relatives buried at Union Hill, wasn’t at all reserved in her criticism, wishing aloud that she could have greeted the vandals with buckshot.
“They got my brother’s, my sister-in-law’s, my dad’s and my mom’s (tombstones),” she said. “I can’t even find my dad’s tombstone. Somebody that would do something like this, I don’t feel sorry for them.”
Crabb said he’s seen individual stones painted or broken before, but nothing on this scale.
“I haven’t seen this much in my lifetime,” he said.
Rewards for information are likely in both cases. Capt. Michael Ramey of the Booneville Police Department said money may be available through CrimeStoppers on the Booneville damage.
Edwards of Union County said, “We’ll be getting with CrimeStoppers so we can offer a reward for information leading to the arrest of these knuckleheads.”
Contact Errol Castens at (662) 281-1069 or firstname.lastname@example.org.