Several hundred veterans’ markers were stolen from graves in two Sheffield cemeteries over the weekend.
Sheffield Cemetery caretaker Joe Walton said he and cemetery board members were walking through the grounds counting the graves that were missing markers. He said the thieves had pulled the American flags from the markers, then stuck the flags back in the ground making a more accurate count feasible.
He added that the thieves had also hit the neighboring St. Michael’s Cemetery.
Ed Burris, Veterans’ Affairs director and Warren County United Veterans Council president, said, “It’s bad enough that they did it, but to do it on the Fourth Of July weekend!”
Coincidentally, perhaps, the last incident occurred just over a month ago at Oakland and St. Joseph’s cemeteries in Warren. “It takes a low-life to steal those markers, especially right before Memorial Day,” Burris said of that theft.
He explained the World War I and II markers are made of bronze with brass support rods, unlike the newer markers that are made of aluminum.
A spokesman for Metalico Warren, a major scrap metal purchaser, said his company had been informed of the thefts and would refuse to buy any markers brought in. He said they would try to get a name, license plate and a description of the vehicle and turn over the information to the police. He also said he had given phone numbers for other Metalico yards to the person who called.
Officer Dan Madigan of the Sheffield Township Police Department said he had received an estimate of 200 to 300 markers missing. He said charges would include desecration of a grave and theft. He noted that the Pennsylvania State Police are aware of the situation.
Trooper Jen Bovee of the state police said that they were not involved with the Sheffield thefts investigation, although the Memorial Day thefts are still under investigation.
A spokesman for Corry-based state police said that office had a similar situation back in May, but nothing more recent.
A representative from U. S. Sen. Pat Toomey’s office said they were looking into federal laws regarding the desecration of veterans’ graves.