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Three juveniles charged in cemetery vandalism

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    Toppled tombstones lie in Forest Cemetery on Thursday. Police said vandals have been damaging the tombstones in recent weeks.

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    A side of the Burdick Peckham mausoleum in Forest Cemetery in Toledo.

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Three juveniles have been charged with felony vandalism in connection with one of several incidents of ongoing damage at Forest Cemetery, Toledo police said Friday. 

The unnamed male suspects, ages 11, 12, and 14, have been charged with felony vandalism for damage that occurred June 11. Two other incidents on April 12 and July 30 remain under investigation, police spokesman Lt. Kevan Toney said. 

In recent months vandals have overturned headstones, carved profanities into stones, and broken into a mausoleum bearing the names Burdick and Peckham. More than 100 graves have been tampered with, according to cemetery officials. 

Lieutenant Toney cited community involvement in helping identify the individuals. 

“Any time you have a desecration of a burial site, that is something that is going to draw people's attention,” he said. “We want our loved ones to rest in peace.”

The lieutenant said police are not ruling out the juveniles in relation to the other two incidents, but said the investigation is ongoing. 

RELATED: Vandals break into mausoleum

Toledo City Councilman Larry Sykes lauded the charges but lamented the ages of those accused. 

“After months of vandalism and desecration of the last resting place of our citizens, the individuals have been caught,” he said. “Here we have young folks who have intensified criminal activities.” 

Mr. Sykes, who has been vocally critical of the cemetery damage, said he would again discuss his proposed stricter youth curfew requiring youth under 16 to be off the streets by 9 p.m.

He initially introduced the idea earlier this year following the death of Marquise Byrd of Warren, Mich., who was killed in December when a sandbag dropped from an I-75 overpass struck the car in which he was riding. Four youths pleaded guilty to involvement and were sentenced to a local treatment center.

He also cited the case of 16-year-old Machello Jackson, charged with murder for a pizza delivery driver’s fatal shooting. 

“The individuals who are committing these crimes are getting younger and younger and the crimes are getting more aggressive,” Mr. Sykes said. 

Damage to the mausoleum, reported in the July 30 incident for which the youths are not charged, prompted an investigator from the Lucas County Coroner’s Office to consult on how to return bones to their rightful places after two coffins were removed from the vaults.

Among those entombed at the damaged mausoleum is Leander Burdick who, according to Blade archives, worked for several of the city’s banks until his death in 1913.

At the time of his death, Mr. Burdick was cashier of the Union Savings Bank, and was previously a director of the Northern National Bank and financial manager for Buckeye Tobacco Co., according to the newspaper. He was also a “well-known Mason” who had risen to the level of grand master and described as the oldest Mason in Ohio when he died, the obituary stated. 

Cemetery records show several members of the Burdick and Peckham families entombed in the vault, including Mr. Burdick and his wife Jennie, his daughter Celia, and son-in-law Charles A. Peckham. Authorities have not identified which of the mausoleum’s coffins were disturbed. 

Vandalism is a fifth-degree felony under Ohio law, though the charge could be upgraded with more costly destruction. Damage between $7,500 and $150,000 is a fourth-degree felony. A police report for the June 11 incident estimates damage in excess of $10,000.

Lori Olender, deputy chief of Lucas County prosecutor's juvenile division, said none of the three charged was in custody Friday afternoon and none had a previous record.

Anyone with information about the vandalism is urged to call Crime Stopper at 419-255-1111.

Contact Lauren Lindstrom at llindstrom@theblade.com, 419-724-6154, or on Twitter @lelindstrom.

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