The Fayette Tribune, Oak Hill, W.Va.

Local News

May 26, 2014

Graves disturbed at Pax Community Cemetery

Several graves at Pax Community Cemetery were disturbed the weekend before Memorial Day in apparent grave robbery attempts, and cemetery caretakers and others asked the public last week to help identify those responsible.

“Whoever did this is lower than dirt,” said Vickie Toney, secretary/treasurer of Pax Community Cemetery. “That’s how I see this.

“It’s just absolutely tore us to pieces.”

According to Toney, her father, the cemetery head trustee, and caretaker Larry Kelly, discovered on Sunday that four graves had been disturbed by an unknown person who was apparently digging.

“On (one) they were almost to the vault,” Toney said. “If it had been fiberglass, they might have been able to have gotten in, but if the vault was steel or concrete, it would’ve taken some really strong people to have opened it.”

Desecration or damage to a cemetery or cemetery structure is a misdemeanor and may result in a $2,000 fine and/or a year in prison, under state code.

Toney said the cemetery, which hosts 200 to 300 graves, has been vandalized in the past but that this is the first time someone has tried to uncover a grave.

“There’s been four-wheeler tracks that’s went through the cemetery and knocked over the stones at different times, but nothing this terrible,” she added. “Maybe they were looking for jewelry or something to buy their drugs.”

Toney said the community cemetery that serves families in Pax and surrounding areas. It operates mainly on donations from the community and is cared for by Toney’s parents and other concerned citizens.

Toney said she understood that citizens had contacted police about the grave disturbances.

Since the cemetery isn’t a perpetual care or private graveyard, grave desecrations do not have to be reported to authorities, but disinterring a grave without proper permits and authorization is illegal in West Virginia.

No grave in West Virginia may be disturbed for any reason without disinterment permits issued by the Office of Vital Registration in Charleston.

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