LEWISTON — Authorities on Tuesday announced the arrests of three Lewiston men in connection with the desecration last week of one of the city's oldest cemeteries.
Police charged Shane Haskell, 20, of 98 Pierce St., Billie Coburn, 18, of 131 Horton St., and Jesse Macia, 18, of 125 Pierce St. with aggravated criminal mischief and desecration and defacement of a burial site in connection with widespread vandalism at Riverside Cemetery.
All three remained at the Androscoggin County Jail on Tuesday night. Haskell was being held on $1,000 cash bail; Coburn and Macia, each on $100 cash bail.
"They should be made an example of," said Marilyn Burgess, 72, of Leeds. "Being caught means they won't be free to do it again. Fixing those stones ain't worth a damn if they can do it again."
Burgess was among those throughout the county outraged by the weekend rampage at the graveyard that dates back to the early to mid-1800s. Burgess serves as the legislative liaison for the Maine Old Cemetery Association. She was at the Summer Street cemetery to check on the graves of her relatives when she heard the news.
"This senseless act of vandalism has really touched a nerve in the Police Department and in this community," Chief Michael Bussiere said in a written statement. "But one positive development has been the outpouring of support from those that have volunteered to help restore the graves at the Riverside Cemetery."
The suspects are alleged to have toppled more than 100 headstones sometime between Thursday night and Friday morning last week. Some of the stones were 200 years old and weighed 1,000 pounds or more.
Many were completely torn from their bases, including those marked with small American flags as veterans' graves. A few stones had rolled downhill and were found beside the cemetery road.
"This situation opened the eyes of a lot of people," said Kevin Ouellette, who has worked as groundskeeper at the 40-acre cemetery for 12 years. "It's reminded people that Riverside Cemetery is here. You've got families that have been here for decades. At least everybody is aware of the place again."
Ouellette extended heartfelt thanks to the dozens of volunteers who have been arriving at the cemetery in a steady stream since the story broke late last week. Several companies have called about helping restore and repair the stones, he said. He is hopeful that most of the restoration work can be done in a matter of weeks. Repairs could cost upward of $50,000.
Despite Tuesday's arrests, the case remained under investigation by the Lewiston Police Department, and additional arrests and charges are likely. Lt. Mark Cornelio of the Lewiston Police Department declined to release any details about the case, including how many other suspects the police are investigating or how detectives developed leads in the case.
Cornelio praised the efforts of Detective Lee Jones, who worked closely with the patrol division and the Community Resource Team during the investigation.
A search of Sun Journal archives showed that Haskell was arrested this past June on charges of assault and refusing to submit to arrest or detention, and in August 2008 on a charge of theft by unauthorized taking or transfer. Macia was arrested in June on charges of disorderly conduct and possession of an illegal drug.