Toppled tombstones at the Prospect Hill Cemetery.
Toppled tombstones at the Prospect Hill Cemetery. (Northern York County Regional Police Department)

A toppled and broken headstone jutted out from the normally neat line of tombstones Wednesday at Prospect Hill Cemetery.

A few rows nearby, a cross once mounted on a headstone lay on the ground, its weight leaving a near perfect imprint on the freshly cut grass.

Sometime Tuesday night or Wednesday morning, someone, or a group of people, toppled between 35 and 40 gravestones, leaving a path of destruction, said Jane Seitz, assistant to the general manager of the 700 N. George St. cemetery.

"Some of them go back to the 1800s, so they are at least 100 years old," she said. The damaged tombstones are in sections T2, 10 and 10W of the cemetery, according to Northern York County Regional Police.

Path: Police say that whoever caused the damage apparently entered the cemetery at Dewey Avenue in North York and damaged tombstones while walking toward Pennsylvania Avenue.

"It was kind of like they made a path," Seitz said.

The cemetery's operations manager discovered the damage about 8:15 a.m. Wednesday, Seitz said.

Burial dates on the damaged tombstones range from the 1800s to modern day. Some are grand, tall monuments to the dead, while others are simpler markers bearing only a name and birth and death dates.

Etched onto one of the toppled gravestones is the date 1885, the year the man buried under it died. Nearby, a few shattered beer bottles lay against an undamaged tombstone.

Repairs: Lt. Dave Lash of Northern York County Regional Police said an estimate of damage is not available.

When four teenage boys toppled 55 grave markers in the cemetery in 2004, it cost the cemetery roughly $19,000 to repair the stones, Jack Sommer, the general manager, said in 2005.

Cemetery workers now must search out any additional gravestones that may be damaged and will start the task of finding heirs of the dead who are buried beneath the damaged stones so they can be notified, Seitz said.

If heirs are found, they'll have to pay to have their loved ones' tombstones repaired. If heirs can't be located, the cemetery will have to pick up the repair bills, Seitz said.

"So the damage was also done to the families, not just the cemetery," she said.

Vandals also previously hit Prospect Hill Cemetery in 2005 when 420 gravestones were damaged or destroyed, causing an estimated $150,000 in damage.

"Unfortunately its not an uncommon thing to have happen," Seitz said.

Anyone with information about the toppled tombstones at Prospect Hill Cemetery is asked to contact the Northern York County Regional Police Department at (717) 292-3647 or use the crime tip-reporting portion of nycrpd.org.

Toppled tombstones at the Prospect Hill Cemetery.
Toppled tombstones at the Prospect Hill Cemetery. (Northern York County Regional Police Department)
You can also report any tips to York County Crime Stoppers by calling 755-tips or visiting www.yorkcountycrimestoppers.com.

- Reach Greg Gross at ggross@yorkdispatch.com.