2 months since Merrill cemeteries vandalized, no arrests made

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MERRILL, Wis. (WSAW) -- It's been two months since 114 gravestones were damaged at both St. Francis and Merrill Memorial Park cemeteries. No arrests have been made and police continue to look for suspects, as the cemeteries continue to pick up the pieces.

"Some of the stones are quite old and have unidentified family members associated with them. So, these cemeteries have definitely incurred a cost in resetting or having to replace those stones," said Lieutenant Detective Patrick Wunsch with the Merrill Police Department.

The vandals caused tens of thousands of dollars worth of damage at the two Merrill cemeteries.

"That amount covers the vandalism, the repairs, the man hours in the cemetery," said John Hanson, Sexton with St. Francis Cemetery.

"Typically vandalism itself is expected. But, something like this really tugged at the heartstrings of the community, being that it was a cemetery, being that some of these stones were almost 200 years old and were permanently damaged and don't have any family members left to take care of them," said Lt. Det. Wunsch.

Thursday marks two months exactly since more than 100 gravestones were toppled or destroyed.While some were not damaged and just needed to be turned upright, others were destroyed.

The Merrill Police Department said several leads have not panned out, while other leads remain under investigation. Police have also been working with departments in Eau Claire, Madison and Manistique, Michigan, where similar damages have occurred.

"I've had a chance to work with detectives in those jurisdictions, and so far two of them have confirmed to not be related to what happened here. I'm still in the process of seeing if there's any common denominators with the one that most recently happened in Manistique, Michigan," said Lt. Det. Wunsch.

Immediately after the damage was noticed, the community stepped in. Individuals, businesses and non-profit organizations have donated thousands of dollars to help offset the repair costs.

"I really feel happy to be part of this community with all the people that did so much outreach to us and helping us out. The caring of the community is really nice to see," said Hanson.

Including one person, who set up a fundraiser online and raised more than $10,000.

"To date, that person has raised over $10,000. Five thousand of that amount is set to aside as a reward leading to the arrest and conviction of the persons responsible," said Lt. Det. Wunsch. "I believe somebody out there knows something about this, and if they do the right thing they can also earn up to $6,000 by reporting it."

The deadline to submit information to get that reward money was Wednesday night, but the individual is now extending the deadline through Sept. 30.

"It's a terrible thing and no one has came forward on it yet, and we're still hoping that someone's going to fess up to it and do the right thing," said Hanson.

If you have any information regarding the incident, please report it to the Merrill Police Department by either calling them at 715-536-3726, or by submitting the tip online by clicking here. If you submit it online, you are able to give the information anonymously.

For more information on the Merrill GoFundMe set up by the individual, click here.