SABATTUS – In his 50 years on the Pleasant Hill Cemetery board, Ron LaBerge has seen some strange things – bodies stolen from the ground in the dark of the night only to be secretly reburied elsewhere. Graves disturbed by thrill-seekers who scatter bones across the grass and make off with skulls as souvenirs.

LaBerge has seen ugliness but the latest round of vandalism has him extra riled. Earlier in the week, thieves made off with a pair of ground markers that had been placed on the graves of war veterans.

“I couldn’t believe it when I got here and saw what they’d done,” LaBerge said Thursday. “They stole from veterans.”

The thefts were discovered when relatives went to the cemetery to tend to the graves of loved ones, LaBerge said. The presumed motive for the thievery makes the crime seem even more depraved – police investigating the matter believe the grave markers may have been taken because they contain copper.

“It’s a money thing,” LaBerge said, standing over one of two rectangular holes left in the earth.

There are 76 veterans buried at Pleasant Hill, said LaBerge, president of the cemetery board. That means more copper-laced markers that could fall prey to vandals.

Police are keeping extra eyes on the cemetery as they investigate the thefts. So are members of the cemetery board, but there are only five of them.

The cemetery, sitting atop Pleasant Hill Road, not far from Route 9, has seen an uptick in vandalism, LaBerge said. On Memorial Day, a man in a black truck drove between markers and directly over the bodies of those buried there.

Some mornings, workers arrive to find liquor bottles strewn across the lawn, LaBerge said, or strategically arranged around headstones. But it’s the theft of the veterans’ markers that has him fuming.

Across the country, cemeteries have contended with the theft of graveside markers and vases made of copper or bronze. Thieves are after these items, police said, for the money they can get selling them as scrap metal.

The veterans’ markers are more than six inches thick, LaBerge said, and had to be pried from the ground.

Anyone with information about the thefts at Pleasant Hill Cemetery is asked to call Sabattus police at 375-6952. Sgt. Richard Stanton is leading the investigation.


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