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Somebody's idea of a fun Halloween night

Largo police hope that those who know the vandals will come forward with information.

By LORRI HELFAND
Published November 4, 2006


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LARGO - Groundskeeper Chris Miller found the battered statues at Serenity Gardens Memorial Park the morning after Halloween.

He saw the decapitated Jesus with his head on his lap.

And he saw a toppled angel statue with her wings shattered into dozens of pieces.

"It takes a certain type of person to defile somebody's burial space like that," said Miller, 20, who was raised Catholic. "It's distasteful."

Police think a group of teenagers overturned the statues, which were perched on top of crypts, early Wednesday.

"I really blame the parents," said Leroy Walker, 80, who was attending the funeral of a fellow church member Thursday. "They should know their kids and know who they run with."

The cemetery, near Wilcox and Indian Rocks Roads, is evaluating whether the statues can be replaced or repaired, said Moss Feaster Serenity Gardens general manager Richard Chesler. He said he has no idea how much it will cost.

One grave marker was also damaged and will be replaced, Chesler said. The family was contacted, he said.

About a decade ago, the St. Petersburg Times reported a spate of vandalism at the cemetery that involved damage to little statues, landscaping, crosses, vases and memorial candles.

Chesler said nothing like this has happened at the cemetery in recent years, but that crews often stay late on Halloween night to guard against mischief.

Miller said workers monitored the park until just before midnight. And Largo police Sgt. Andy Hill said units surveyed the cemetery during the night.

Several vandals were likely involved because the life-sized marble statues are extremely heavy, Hill said. The angel statue was knocked on its back at an odd angle, its hands still in prayer

The Jesus statue, which the vandals poised upright on the corner of a grave marker, was several feet from the platform where it previously sat.

To gauge its weight, Hill, another officer and a groundskeeper tried to move it.

"With all of our might we tried to push that thing," Hill said. "It didn't move an inch."

Hill said there are likely people who know about the vandalism, but didn't take part in it.

He hopes they come forward, he said.

[Last modified November 4, 2006, 07:46:20]


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