Sheriff: Two tombstone cases unrelated

Published 6:00 am Monday, December 18, 2006

Law enforcement officers say no charges will be filed in a casethat started with a tombstone found in a buggy in a retail storeparking lot.

Officers may not be so forgiving in another case involvingdislocated tombstones, however, said Lincoln County Sheriff’sDepartment Investigator Rodney Foster.

The two cases do not appear to be related, he said.

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“It is kind of odd, though, to have two headstone cases thisclose together,” Foster said.

The sheriff’s department was already working on a case involvingthe theft of two headstones in late November when they learned lastweek of a Brookhaven Police Department case involving a headstoneleft in a retail store’s buggy through The DAILY LEADER, Fostersaid. He consulted with Roger Wilson, a police detective.

Brookhaven Police Chief Pap Henderson said his departmentreleased the case to the sheriff’s department when it was learnedthe headstone belonged to a church in the county.

However, when the pastor of Union Baptist Church claimed theheadstone from the city and went to return it to the grave, he wasshocked.

“He was going to see it got back on the grave, but there wasalready one there,” Foster said. “It turns out that the one foundin the parking lot was a misprint.”

“We did verify it was not a stolen headstone,” he added.

So how did it get there?

Nine or 10 years ago, Foster said, the owner of a localmechanic’s shop was friends with the owner of a monument company.He requested and was given the misprinted headstone as a Halloweendecoration for his yard. After the holiday, it was placed in acorner of the shop and essentially forgotten about until earlierthis year when a mechanic noticed it.

The 20-year-old mechanic liked the idea of using it as aHalloween decoration and requested it from the shop owner, whoagreed. After the holiday, “he was hauling it around in the back ofhis truck,” Foster said.

The investigator said the young mechanic was under pressure fromhis mother to dispose of the headstone because “it was creeping herout to have it in the back of the truck,” so when she went insidethe store to shop, he placed the headstone in a buggy.

“No charges were filed, but we told him not to throw awayheadstones at Wal-Mart again,” Foster said.

The older case, however, is more serious.

Two headstones were stolen from Pleasant Grove Methodist Churchin November and dumped on the lawn of a residence on Summers Lane,said Sheriff Steve Rushing.

Investigators are still trying to determine a motive for thetheft, but it did not appear to involve the homeowner, he said. Thehomeowner did not recognize the names on the headstones.

Inscribed on the tombstones were the names of H.J. Maxwell andhis daughter C. Virginia. H.J. Maxwell died in 1912 and VirginiaMaxwell in 1891, a month before her 24th birthday.

“We know where they came from, we just don’t have a suspectyet,” Rushing said.

Anyone with information on the theft is urged to contact Fosterat (601) 833-7182.

A representative from Pleasant Grove Methodist Church wasexpected to pick up the headstones Friday to return them to theirproper place, Foster said.