30+ headstones damaged: ‘It makes me sick’

Partiers suspected to be responsible for vandalism at Lacota Cemetery

Dozens of headstones were damaged in Lacota Cemetery in Van Buren County. (Courtesy Van Buren County Sheriff's Office/March 23, 2016)

GENEVA TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Locals say vandalism to a small cemetery in Van Buren County — nearly three dozen tombstones toppled, damaged or broken — ‘makes them sick.’

“It’s just heart wrenching,” Nancy Whaley told 24 Hour News 8 Wednesday.

The cemetery is off the beaten path in the little community of Lacota, located in Geneva Township near Grand Junction.

Dozens of grave headstones were damaged in Lacota Cemetery in Van Buren County. (Courtesy Van Buren County Sheriff's Office/March 23, 2016)
Photo courtesy the Van Buren County Sheriff’s Office.

Investigators say a dog walker discovered the vandalism on Tuesday afternoon. Some of the damaged headstones are more than a hundred years old.

Whaley, the Geneva Township supervisor, has lived in the area her entire life. She has family members buried in the cemetery.

“Makes me sick because there’s so much history and so many families involved,” Whaley said. “It’s a sad day in Geneva Township. What motives people to destroy history, I’ll never know.”

Van Buren County Sheriff’s Deputy Kyle Romeo is on the case. He says the damage was likely caused late Saturday night by some partiers — teenagers or maybe people in their 20s.

“It’s just really senseless. There’s just no point in it,” Romeo said.

Lacota Cemetery

The cemetery is tucked back off a road that isn’t well traveled. Romeo says kids who are up to no good often spend time back there.

“I’m back here several times during the week and checking on it, but it sure does happen at night,” Romeo said of the partying.

“Somebody spent a lot of time in this cemetery doing this damage. It wasn’t just little kids. These are big old stones,” Whaley said.

Investigators have little to no evidence. Deputies found a beer can at the scene -– which may or may not be connected — but no fingerprints. The suspect or suspects may be driving a pickup truck and/or an SUV, but no makes or models are known.

Dozens of headstones at Lacota Cemetery in Van Buren County were vandalized.

Malicious destruction of property charges are on the table if police can crack the case.

Whaley, in the meantime, is urging a confession.

“Stand up for what you did. It was wrong and it could be your family that’s here. Or this could affect your family,” Whaley said.

Anyone with information is asked to call the Van Buren County Sheriff’s Office at 269.657.3101, Crime Stoppers at 1.800.342.7867 or Silent Observer at 269.343.2100.

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