After vandals struck Hanover's Mount Olivet Cemetery on June 25, the founder of the Preserving York blog asked what most of us also were thinking.

Why?

"Personally, I've always been interested in speaking to the individuals who vandalize cemeteries," Blake Stough wrote. "I've wanted to learn what was running through their minds when they struggled to push the tombstone over -- some weighing several hundred pounds -- and watching it crack as it smashes into the ground.

"What motivated them to take this action in the first place? What are their thoughts about our aging cemeteries, those who were buried there, those who come to mourn?"

Now, a little more than a month after more than 20 tombstones were toppled at Mount Olivet, the York County community is again trying to make some sense of a senseless crime.

Sometime Tuesday night or Wednesday morning, someone or group toppled between 35 and 40 gravestones at Prospect Hill Cemetery in North York. Some of the stones dated back to the 1800s and others marked the final resting spots of more recently departed.

They created a straight-line path of destruction from Dewey Avenue in the borough, where they apparently entered the cemetery, toward Pennsylvania Avenue, leaving broken beer bottles and heartache in their wake.

It was an attack not only on the cemetery, but also on the families of those whose plots were vandalized.


Advertisement

And in addition to the emotional pain, these families will suffer financial pain, as well.

Prospect Hill employee Jane Seitz said the cemetery will try to find heirs of the dead buried beneath the damaged stones. If they can be located, they'll have to pay to have the markers repaired or replaced.

If no heirs can be found, the cemetery will cover the costs.

This is the third case of vandalism at Prospect Hill in about 10 years. Fifty-five markers were damaged in 2004, costing about $19,000 to repair, and 420 gravestones were damaged or destroyed in 2005, causing an estimated $150,000 in damage.

"Unfortunately it's not an uncommon thing to have happen," Seitz said.

What are these people thinking?

One thing they probably weren't considering was the severity of their crimes.

Although vandalizing a cemetery used to be considered a misdemeanor, it's now a third-degree felony, punishable by up to seven years in prison and a fine.

Maybe the Prospect Hill vandals think they'll never have to answer for their actions.

We wouldn't be so sure, though. Police have been known to lift fingerprints from beer bottles, even broken ones.

If they are caught and convicted, part of their punishment -- in addition to jail time and restitution -- should be to stand up in court and explain themselves. They should answer Stough's questions.

We're fairly certain such a statement would not suffice in any way.

But we'd like to see them give it a try.

Civilized people are curious.