PERU — Vandals toppled and smashed 21 headstones in Demerritt Cemetery sometime Thursday night or Friday morning.
About half of the headstones damaged were in the older section of the 6-acre cemetery bordering Route 108 (Auburn Road) and Main Street, according to Robert Dolloff, president of the Demerritt Cemetery Association.
Many of those headstones date back to the cemetery's origins in the early 19th century and featured beautiful craftsmanship from that era.
A neighbor of the cemetery checking a recent grave noticed the vandalism around noon on Friday. She quickly walked the roughly 200 yards uphill to the Peru Town Office and alerted town administrative assistant Kathy Hussey of the vandalism.
Oxford County Sheriff's Deputy George Cayer arrived on-site around 12:30 p.m. and began the criminal investigation.
"We're looking at felony and criminal mischief charges for whoever caused this vandalism," Cayer said.
"The Oxford County Sheriff's Office requests the public's assistance in solving this vandalism case," he said. If anyone has seen any suspicious behavior, such as people loitering around the Demerritt Cemetery, please call the tip line at 1-800-733-1421.
This past week has been a difficult one for the Demerritt Cemetery. On Tuesday, a woman, while allegedly driving under the influence, drove her vehicle into the cemetery, smashing several headstones including the oldest — the 600-pound Woodsum memorial stone.
The Demerritt Cemetery began in the early 1800s when Frank Demerritt donated an acre of his large Peru property for the establishment of a cemetery.