Vandals chop down trees in local cemetery


Share This
Three Fastigiata Mountain Ash trees valued at $200 a piece toppled over onto headstones after an act of vandalism | Elaine King, Facebook photo

SUGAR CITY — Peace and comfort normally felt at the Sugar Salem Moody Cemetery was shattered after three trees were mysteriously chopped downed earlier this month.

On the morning of Sept. 11, workers at the cemetery discovered three Fastigiata Mountain Ash trees, valued at $200 each, toppled over onto headstones. Joyce Cromar, the cemetery’s secretary, told a closer look at the trees revealed they were cut about three-fourths of the way into their trunks with a handsaw before strong winds toppled them over.

“I don’t know why someone would go out there and do that unless they had a vendetta against the cemetery,” Cromar said. “(It’s) so disheartening that someone would go cut these trees down.”

J.D. Hancock donated the special trees, which he purchased in Montana because local nurseries were not selling them. He planted the trees along the road at the northwest side of the cemetery and, as irrigation wasn’t installed at the time, Cromar said Hancock would make sure they were watered.

Vandalism at the cemetery is not just limited to the trees. Cromar said in the past, vandals destroyed vases on monuments, pushed over a headstone and stole flowers. Over Memorial Day weekend, several people reported flowers missing from the headstones of their loved ones.

“If you had a loved one out there in the cemetery, would you like it if someone vandalized their final resting place?” Cromar said.

Facebook users expressed their frustration online about the vandalism. Julie Stoddard has two sons buried in the Sugar Salem Moody Cemetery. On the Facebook group Sugar City News, Stoddard said the planters at her sons’ graves were purposely damaged and the recent vandalism just makes her mad.

“I have very strong feelings myself, this should have never happen,” wrote Ellen Luthy, a woman with several family members buried in the cemetery. “It worries me to put anything in the cemetery for long in fear someone will steal or ravage it. Let’s hope we get closure on this act.”

Cromar said each time something is damaged, the cost to replace the property comes from the cemetery’s limited funds.

“There will come a day the cemetery can’t keep up with all of this (vandalism),” Cromar said. “It’s a constant thing with vandalism at the cemetery and it’s getting really expensive.”

Cromar said the cemetery only makes enough money from the purchase of plots to cover the property taxes and wages for groundskeepers. Anywhere from 10 to 30 people a year are buried at the cemetery, bringing in, at most, $6,000 – not enough to cover the extra funds needed to cover the vandalism.

Madison County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Bart Quayle said deputies are investigating the vandalism. Investigators believe the crime occurred between Sept. 4 and Sept. 11 but without any witnesses, deputies have few leads. Extra patrols are now being made at the cemetery.

While the cemetery board plans to replace the vandalized trees, they currently don’t have enough money to do so. Cromar says people can donate money to replace the trees by mailing a check to the Sugar Salem Moody Cemetery at 10 Jaxon Drive in Sugar City.

Anyone has information about the vandalism is asked to call the Madison County Sheriff’s Office at (208) 356-5426.