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More than 60 headstones toppled in vandalism spree

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MASSENA — Vandals hit the Pine Grove Cemetery on Beach Street late Friday or early Saturday, toppling more than 60 headstones.

“I counted about 60 yesterday. It’s at least 60,” Robert B. Squires, president of the Pine Grove Cemetery Association said Monday morning as he surveyed the damage from the weekend’s vandalism spree.

Police Chief Timmy J. Currier said it appeared that approximately 65 headstones were vandalized during the incident, which was reported to police at 9:15 a.m. Saturday.

Mr. Currier said they received a call from Dr. Carl Scruggs, whose Main Street office has a clear view of the cemetery since a line of trees was removed from the back of the cemetery.

“He must have popped in and noticed it,” Mr. Currier said.

Mr. Squires, whose parents, wife and sister are buried in Pine Grove Cemetery, said the police called him Saturday morning to let him know about the vandalism.

“The police called my house Saturday morning. I was working for the Kiwanis garage and came over that afternoon,” he said.

What he found were several headstones tipped over around the cemetery. A row of them was toppled near the fence line at the rear of the cemetery.

“They were right down through there,” Mr. Squires said.

The damaged stones are primarily in the southwest part of the cemetery, Mr. Currier said.

Some of the toppled headstones date back to the 1800s. Mr. Squires said some can be lifted and put back in place, while others were cracked when they fell and will have to be repaired.

“Here’s one that’s really sad. It’s an old, old stone,” Mr. Squires said as he surveyed one of the toppled stones that had broken during the fall.

“Fortunately, we do have the ability to fix them,” he said, noting a couple from Ogdensburg has the equipment and ability to raise the headstones back to their rightful spots.

“They’ll use their straps and very carefully set them back up,” Mr. Squires said. “They’ll probably need to use a front-end loader.”

He said even though officials keep the cemetery gate unlocked so families have access to the grave sites, he recalls only one other instance when the cemetery was vandalized.

Mr. Currier said after police were notified of the incident, they conducted a door-to-door canvas of the area, trying to develop information. He said they did receive information that a gray minivan entered the cemetery at about 8:30 or 9 p.m. Friday.

“An act like this is so senseless, so repulsive, I can’t even begin to understand why a person would do this,” he said, adding that the department “will commit every resource to this incident.”

Anyone who has information regarding the vandalism can call the police department at 769-3577.

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