Gravestones nearly two centuries old lie on their side in the dirt. The obelisks are shattered into pieces. Statues that have watched over the decades are pushed straight from their pedestals. Over the course of two summers, vandals repeatedly infiltrated historic Green Lawn Cemetery after dark and kicked and pushed and made their way through more than 1.25 million dollars in damage. The nonprofit Green Lawn Cemetery turned to Central Ohio Crime Stoppers – and the public – for help.
Gravestones nearly two centuries old lie on their side in the dirt. The obelisks are shattered into pieces. Statues that have watched over the decades are pushed straight from their pedestals.
Over the course of two summers, vandals repeatedly infiltrated historic Green Lawn Cemetery after dark and kicked and pushed and made their way through more than 1.25 million dollars in damage. The nonprofit Green Lawn Cemetery turned to Central Ohio Crime Stoppers and the public ?? to help.
“A few damaged markers, we can handle that,” said Randy Rogers, administrator of Green Lawn. This happens during a storm or when a giant branch falls from an old tree. But more than 600 monuments? “It’s completely overwhelming.”
Anyone who comes forward with information leading to the arrest of a vandal or cemetery thief will receive a cash reward of $ 1,000, said Crime Stoppers President Kristen McKinley. It will be an ongoing partnership between the two groups, with Crime Stoppers collecting information from informants, who will remain anonymous, and the cemetery funding the rewards. Signs will be posted around the cemetery announcing the prize, which officials hope will serve as a deterrent.
“To the person or persons who do these heinous acts, you will get caught,” McKinley said. “To the person or people who have information about this or who know who is doing this, think of the families of the deceased who are buried in these graves. How would you feel? … Do the right thing. ”
Due to the dollar amount involved, said Detective Jason Evans of the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, this is a crime of vandalism. He got some leads but could use more information, he said.
Green Lawn Cemetery, established in 1848, spans 360 acres of rolling hills designed by a landscape architect. Many personalities are buried there, including Samuel Bush, the grandfather of President George HW Bush; former Ohio Governor and US Senator John Bricker, who was running mate of presidential candidate Thomas Dewey in 1944; World War I aviation ace Eddie Rickenbacker; and comedian James Thurber.
The oldest sections of the cemetery, which suffered the most damage, are furthest from the main entrance.
The perimeter is approximately 3 1/2 miles with 2.2 miles of fence. On Tuesday, a man cutting through the graveyard slipped just between two folded slats of the fence retreating towards Brown Road.
Cemetery officials believe the ten or so incidents, all of which occurred during the hot months of 2015 and 2016, are linked. The security patrol chased and nearly grabbed two men on one occasion, and described them as two white men of about 20 years of age, of average height and build.
On August 14, vandals damaged 109 monuments overnight. On November 26, the most recent incident, they pushed over 30 to 40 markers, causing between $ 35,000 and $ 45,000 in damage. Simply resetting a small stone marker costs $ 600, Rogers said.
“They were very vindictive,” he said. “They will pick up a tablet and smash it on another tablet.”
Some of the most significant damage is to a monument to Gustavus Swan, a War of 1812 veteran, Ohio Supreme Court judge in 1829-30 and best known for organizing Ohio’s first banking system . He died on February 6, 1860.
The vandals had to climb the high stone base to reach the columned part at the top, and they smashed a life-size Swan bust. The pieces, with the face destroyed, are still sitting at the base.
The cemetery has a portrait of Swan and a piece of the tile from which the bust was made. But to do it again will cost tens of thousands of dollars.
People can call Central Ohio Crime Stoppers for advice at 614-461-8477 or by using the stopcrime.org website. Identities are kept anonymous, McKinley said.
The association accepts donations from the public, both by mail and in person at the Green Lawn office. Rogers also launched a GoFundMe.com page for cemetery restoration about a month ago.