Graves Vandalized by Criminals
It was a strange and disturbing night at a cemetery in Ocala after more than four dozen graves were vandalized.
"I just came to make sure my dad's was ok," Elaine O'Laughlin told TV20.
She was relieved to see her father's grave untouched, but dozens of others at Ocala's Highland Memorial Park weren't so lucky.
"We've never had anything like this happen before," Hiers-Baxley Funeral Services President, Justin Baxley told TV20.
Tombstone after Tombstone was knocked off its base while flowers and statues were thrown from one grave to the other.
A total of 56 graves were randomly vandalized Saturday overnight.
Ocala Police did find beer cans near the tombstones but nothing was stolen from any of the graves.
"The fact that someone would disregard another family's heritage, would disregard another family's grief is just reprehensible for us," Baxley said.
The criminals acted on the night before a special Father's Day memorial event.
"Especially on father's day," Ocala Police Spokesperson, Sgt. Chas Maier said. "People are going to go visit their loved ones and then they're gonna have to see that."
Some of the tombstones weigh hundreds of pounds and the damage will cost the 55-acre cemetery thousands of dollars.
But police were able to lift some prints from a couple of the graves.
In Florida, desecrating a grave can be charged as a third degree felony.
"I suspect they have no clue how much trouble they are going to be in of they are brought to justice," Baxley said.
Cemetery workers called family members Monday while police searched for the criminals.
The cemetery has nearly six thousand plots.
The front gate is locked at night, but Highland officials say they are working with police to review their security measures to prevent something like this from happening again.