It was a common story – a vandal recently ransacked Shockoe Hill Cemetery, among several others, and stole a number of items — gravestones, interpretive markers, and military insignia.
The story took a turn, however, when the Friends of Shockoe Hill Cemetery noticed that the items were missing in mid-June 2018. The Friends reviewed their security cameras, which showed the suspect at work, including a picture of his car and license plate, and turned the information over to the police. Upon investigation, the police traced the suspect back to his home in Blackstone, Virginia, where they found a number of other items stolen from at least six other central and southern Virginia cemeteries. The suspect was arrested and is awaiting prosecution.
The whole episode is immensely gratifying – as Friends’ past president Jeffrey Burden noted, “The wheels of Justice turn slowly, but grind exceedingly fine.” Even more, it pointed to the essential role that the Friends serve. Their fundraising to acquire the cameras, and their ongoing diligence in keeping watch over the cemetery and its features, has apparently halted a thief from perpetrating such crimes at other cemeteries across the region. None of us should take their work for granted – our common heritage would be much poorer without such time-intensive leadership and dedication.
Richmond magazine‘s Melissa Scott Sinclair has recently recognized the episode in a fine profile of the Friends. Kudos to them all.
Now, if only someone could explain why a disturbed thief would go on such a bender in the first place.