Families 'disgusted' by bronze vase cemetery thefts in Zion

October 2, 2013 3:21:55 PM PDT
Thieves are accused of robbing gravesites in suburban Zion. Investigators say they stole bronze vases to sell for the metal. On Wednesday, people who have loved ones buried at the cemetery are talking about the crime.

One family member calls these thefts "disgusting." Two people have been charged with stealing close to 600 bronze vases from the Mt. Olivet cemetery alone. They did it over a period of several weeks taking 60-70 vases at a time.

The inverted vases that pull up from the ground are popular fixtures at cemeteries. Attached to burial plots, the vases are used to hold flowers. And because they are made of bronze, the vases are also very popular with thieves who sell them for scrap. Mt. Olivet Cemetery in Zion has been a target.

"Five hundred and ninety-one from our cemetery and there were other vases getting vases stolen at the same time," said LeNette VanHaverbeke, co-owner, Mt. Olivet Memorial Park.

Dennis Stein dropped by Wednesday to see any vases were taken from his wife's family plot.

"There were 3 of her family members affected," said Dennis Stein, victim.

Several of Bette Thomas and her brother Bobby Evans' relatives are buried at Mt. Olivet. Many of the plots are missing vases.

"These are our families, these people are part of our lives, mom, dads. . . It's a sad situation and it is happening everywhere," said Bobby Evans, victim.

Evans and Thomas find it so sad and disturbing, they attended a recent court hearing for two people who were charged with stealing all the vases here. They were caught after the cemetery owners conducted their own surveillance.

"We started staking out our cemetery 24 hours a day, watching our surveillance cameras from home, we were physically in cemetery as well overnight, until finally caught them," said VanHaverbeke.

Despite their efforts, Mt. Olivet owners say it's very difficult to prevent grave thefts. There have been similar cemetery crimes in Cook County.

The Cook County Sheriff's office says that a new law that requires stiffer penalties for recyclers that buy these stolen items will help with prevention. As for replacing the stolen vases, the cemetery says that the plot owner's homeowners insurance should take care of it.


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