Tennessee men accused of vandalizing more than 150 headstones

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The markers were overturned and damaged in the Cedar Grove and Wilson County Memorial Gardens cemeteries of Lebanon, Tennessee.

“As someone who has family buried in both Cedar Grove Cemetery and Wilson County Memorial Gardens, I am angered by the vandalism that happened overnight,” Lebanon Mayor Rick Bell said in a Facebook post. “This was an act of vandalism against everyone who has family members there and our entire community.”

Local men Justin Emler, 31, and Jeremy Heaton, 23, have each been charged with one count of vandalism over $60,000, police said in a statement posted to Facebook Saturday.

“In regards to the absolute heinous acts of vandalism that occurred to our local cemetery, our hearts go out to the loved ones that were touched by this senseless crime,” Police Chief Mike Justice said in the statement.

“Our promise will be to follow through with the prosecution of all applicable charges, as well as, to keep all the victims up to date and informed as we move forward,” he said.

Police said the pair also confessed to vandalism at the Lebanon Country Club, and additional charges are to follow.

CNN has not been able to determine if the men have obtained legal representation.

Police had offered a $1,000 reward for information leading to a conviction saying that “well over” 150 headstones had been overturned and damaged. “Estimated damage is in the tens of thousands of dollars,” they said.

Wilson County Memorial Manager Walter Long told CNN that he discovered the damage of two big stones and a mausoleum door. “People spend a lot of money on those markers and stuff. They’re not cheap,” he said.

Established in 1846, Cedar Grove Cemetery is the resting place of many Confederate Civil War veterans, according to the city’s website. Lebanon is about 30 miles east of Nashville.

July 18, 2022 at 04:39AM

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