Police Chief: Merrill cemetery vandalism damage amount could reach six-figures
Police in Merrill are investigating after more than 100 gravestones at two cemeteries were damaged over the weekend. Officers believe the damage at Memorial Park Cemetery and St. Francis Cemetery happened Friday night. It was discovered the next morning.
Merrill Police Chief Corey Bennett said 114 gravestones were damaged. So far, he said there are no leads and no one has been arrested. Police are asking anyone with information to contact them.
"It's probably a five-figure damage estimate right now, and it may climb as high as six-figures. Restitution is a key component of that and given the damage amount, the criminal charges are going to accompany that accordingly. This is not simple vandalism, it's criminal damage to property,” Chief Bennett explained.
Headstones were seen knocked over and broken. Locals describe the scene as a 'tragedy, shameful, ridiculous and disrespectful.'
Jeff Cornil works at Merrill Monument Company. He and cemetery workers have been working non-stop since Monday morning fixing many of the damaged stones.
“It’s unnerving. It’s disgusting that someone would come here and do this,” Cornil said.
"It was unbelievable," said Theresa Anthoney who was checking on family gravestones after the night of vandalism. "There's some of them that don't have family here anymore, and they're never going to rest again. It's... you can't get that back. And it's useless, like there's no reason for it".
"This is supposed to be a final resting place, to let them rest in peace. And you got idiots coming through acting like it's an arcade. It's just wrong," said Anne Caylor, whose grandparents headstone was knocked over. "This is a cemetery. If this isn't sacred to you, what is?".
A $500 reward is being offered by Ed and Sharon's Catering in Merrill for information leading to the conviction of those responsible for the damage. If the culprit or culprits are found by police, the money will be donated to help restore the gravestones.
Since the plots and the headstones are owned by the people that purchased them, owners are responsible for the damage. However, the cemetery staff is working to help get the headstones back upright.
A GoFundMe has been made to help the cemetery with the costs. You can find the link
Anyone with any information is asked to contact the Merrill Police Department at (715) 536-8311.