Accused Riverside vandal apologizes

LEWISTON — Billie James Coburn, one of three men charged with vandalizing Riverside Cemetery last month, has confessed.

Riverside Cemetery
Amber Waterman/Sun Journal

"I really regret what I did," said Billie Coburn, 18, outside a Pierce Street apartment Wednesday afternoon in Lewiston. Coburn was one of three arrested in connection with the vandalism at Riverside Cemetery where around 150 headstone were toppled about two weeks ago.

Dear Sun Journal, city of Lewiston, volunteers, Kevin Ouellete, Det. Lee Jones:

I wanted to take the time I still have to apologize for the destruction of the Riverside Cemetery. I want to apologize to the ones I have shocked, disturbed and hurt in this community. My actions were disrespectful, uncalled for, and not me.

What I did was wrong and I regret every second of it. I would not have been a part of this if I had a sober mind at the time, but I know there's no time for excuses. I was in the wrong place, with the wrong people at the wrong time and now I must live with it for the rest of my life, and I know my future will be much tougher.

I am sorry and do regret and will show remorse. I would like to thank the volunteers who took the time to fix, repair and clean my mess. I want to apologize to the groundskeeper(s) and owner(s) of one of our oldest cemeteries for the trouble I have caused.

I know I have opened many old wounds and I want to try my best and try to close them by apologizing to the families of the headstones I vandalized. I'm ready for the consequences of my actions and I hope many will forgive me for what I've done.

I am sorry for what I did and I wish it never happened.

Sincerely,

Billie James Coburn, Lewiston

 He did it, not on the advice of an attorney and not as part of some tricky legal maneuver. The 18-year-old Lewiston man said he is fessing up because he is sorry.

 “I really have no reason to deny it,” he said Wednesday. “I want to say I’m sorry and face the consequences.”

 Coburn and two others were charged last week with aggravated criminal mischief in the overnight spree that involved dozens of stones being overturned at the Lewiston cemetery. Each was jailed briefly, though they are now free on bail.

 On Wednesday afternoon, Coburn walked to the Sun Journal on Park Street to deliver a handwritten letter. The letter is a full page in which he describes his remorse and offers apologies to several individuals and groups, including the community as a whole, the Riverside groundskeeper, the families of the dead at the cemetery, volunteers who helped clean up and even the police detective who tracked him down.

 “My actions were disrespectful, uncalled for and not me,” he wrote. “What I did was wrong and I regret every second of it.”

 Coburn said he was compelled to write the letter because he has been plagued by guilt since the vandalism spree. The destruction, he said, shocked not only the community but his own social circle, as well.

 “My friends and my family, there were shocked,” he said. “It was the first time I got drunk in a while and I guess I couldn’t control myself. I was intoxicated, but that’s no excuse.”

 When asked, Coburn stressed that overturning headstones and monuments was not an expression of rage toward anybody associated with the cemetery. It was a mindless rampage, he said.

 Coburn was born in Lewiston and has lived here his entire life, he said. He went to Lewiston schools and his family is here. In his letter, he acknowledges Riverside as among the oldest and most beloved cemeteries in the area. He and his friends typically enjoyed the cemetery, he said, like everyone else.

 “We’d just go there to hang out,” he said. “We never thought of doing anything like this.”

 Also charged are Shane Haskell, 20, and Jesse Macia, 18, also of Lewiston. Police say their investigation into the vandalism is ongoing. Chief Michael Bussiere declined to respond to Coburn’s remarks Wednesday while the investigation continues.

The sight of strewn monuments and toppled stones at the cemetery horrified the community and caused many to rally around Riverside. Ultimately, a group of hockey players from the Lewiston Maineiacs got together with other volunteers to right the headstones.

 Coburn’s apology was not likely to appease all of those affected by the vandalism.

 Marilyn Burgess, a 72-year-old Leeds woman who serves as the legislative liaison for the Maine Old Cemetery Association, was asked Wednesday if Coburn’s apology changed how she felt about what was done.

“No,” she said. Because apology or not, the suspects caused a great deal of damage and tried to evade capture as long as they could.

“We have too much of this kind of vandalism and very few are caught,” Burgess said. “I suspect these guys have a lot of anger. And I’m not convinced that there aren’t more people involved.”

 The motivation for the destruction, Coburn said, is inexplicable, lost in the haze of alcohol. He said he has no idea how publicly apologizing and admitting guilt will affect his case. He hasn’t even hired a lawyer yet.

 “I’m ready for the consequences of my actions,” he wrote, “and I hope many will forgive me for what I’ve done.”

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Comments

 's picture

Gene Pool

I knew some Coburns in Auburn in the late 60's, 1 as Willie and his older brother, that were bullies @ Webster Jr. High. The younger ding-a-ling would start fights and get his ass whooped and his older brother in high school would show up the next day and pound on kids 4 yrs. younger who knocked the crap outta his little punk brother. Is "Gravestone Coburn" related 2 the other meatballs?

Kimber Murphy-Hunt's picture

A very nice apology, now let's see you back it up w/ ur actions.

"Mistakes are lessons of wisdom. The past cannot be changed. The future is yet in your power." -Hugh White (1773-1840), US Senator

Mr. Coburn:
I hope you have the opportunity to read this. I think it shows a great deal of maturity and courage to come forward and publicly take responsibility for your actions. I hope that you continue along this path and find a way to show your community that you are indeed remorseful, and that this is not simply a ploy for sympathy. I also hope that you might work at convincing the others involved that taking responsibility is the correct thing to do.
There isn't a reader among us who hasn't done something they regret deeply. It may not be as regretful as cemetery vandalism, and it may be far worse. Any of us that has made a mess of things, then had the courage to face it and ask forgiveness KNOWS that the road ahead is more difficult... but it sure beats walking around with a guilty conscience... and it's the honorable thing to do.
One reader mentioned you may have come forward and apologized to get a better deal on your sentence. Another reader mentioned you may have offered this apology for your "15 seconds of fame." I'm hoping you prove them wrong. I'd love to see you pull yourself up by your bootstraps and have a happy and prosperous life IN SPITE OF this rocky start.
Before any of this happened, there weren't too many of us in the community that knew you. Well, son, we know you now. Unfortunately, you didn't make a very good first impression. The opportunity is yours to show us that you're a better person, Billie. Please don't waste it.

JUDY MEYER's picture
staff

Cobourn's bail conditions

According to the court, one of Mr. Coburn's bail conditions prohibits him from being at or near the cemetery. So, while he would like to volunteer with the repairs, the court-ordered bail conditions do not allow him access to that property.

Audrey Alcala's picture

Before anyone jumps on my

Before anyone jumps on my post and my forgiving Billie......one of the damaged headstones belongs to a family member of mine. You can all say and feel as you wish....but Billie's courage to step forward and publicly apologize shows character.

Audrey Alcala's picture

Billie.....your apology was

Billie.....your apology was wonderful. Please don't take to heart those that will comment that your apology was nice and then throw in a nasty comment with it. When we're young, we all get drunk and do stupid things. It's all part of growing up. But you are the first one I have seen in many,many years, that has made a public apology, accepted your guilt and responsibility and admitted you screwed up. It's not easy to fess up to something as touchy as cemetary vandalism.....so I am doubly impressed with you! Use this mistake as a big lesson.......alcohol can help you do a lot of bad things. I forgive you, Billie!

A Rare Confession

I can't remember the last time I read or heard of someone owning up to what they did wrong. Being accountable for what one has done has gone the way of the dodo bird. Billie, you done right fessing up. Now work it into your schedule to help fix the big mess you made and you'll be able to put this behind you as one big learning experience in what we call "life". Also, if you could convince your partners in crime to do the same it would go a long way in making the families feel a little better. What you guys did to those families was as low as you can go. Getting drunk is NOT where it's at!!!

 's picture

apology

"To err is human; to forgive is divine." Alexnder Pope I do not condone what he did, nor do I think he should go unpunished, but this young man has made an impression on me by publicly apologizing.

 's picture

Signs of growing up...

Not only does this show signs of growing up BUT it also restores some of my lost faith with today's youth. If he had done this after hiring a lawyer it wouldn't of meant as much, it don't absolve him of the wrongness he quit but it sure should count in the "big picture" of life. I wish him well in life after this whole affair is over.

Jake Smith's picture

not enough

if you really want to man up you will get back to the cemetery and help the groundskeepers , not sure if you work or not , but im sure they could use the help

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