BY MELANIE BUCK –
Several headstones were discovered toppled over this week at the Crystal Hill Cemetery in the Baker community near Wickes. On a routine check of her husband’s gravesite, Carol Petross discovered the damage.
Pulling up to the cemetery, Petross noticed something wasn’t quite right when she realized her husband’s headstone was overturned. “I just sat there in the truck trying to process what I was seeing,” stated Petross.
Upon entering the cemetery gates and looking around, she began to notice others that were toppled as well. A total of five headstones were lying on the ground. Petross contacted Crystal Hill Cemetery board member Dale White who surveyed the damage.
Three of the markers, the oldest being from 1898, had been removed from their bases and lay facedown on the ground. A fourth stone and its base were pushed over, and the Petross marker, only six months old, was knocked over onto its backside. “I wanted to cry and then I just got angry that someone would do this. It’s just heartbreaking,” said Petross.
White contacted the Polk County Sheriff’s Department to make a report of the vandalism. Investigating the incident is Deputy Robert Hutcheson. “Graveyards are off limits, a sacred place. You expect when your family is placed in the ground, that they won’t be molested by the human race,” stated Hutcheson.
The Crystal Hill Cemetery sits directly behind Crystal Hill Church, one of several churches that were set on fire in the area around two years ago. The perpetrator of those crimes, who has since been sent to prison, was identified using a sample of fabric that was caught on a fence.
Not much was found at the scene other than visible marks where the vandals were trying to push the markers further from their bases. “Unfortunately, cases like these can only be solved with the help of the public and the vandals need to be held accountable,” said Hutcheson. “It’s the communities’ job to help take care of places like this and to call in situations like these,” he continued.
Petross reiterated his statement by saying, “The community needs to be aware of this instance so that they might check on their own cemeteries more often and assure vandals that someone is watching.”
Since this story was first published online, within a few hours, the initial reward of $300 grew to $700. State Representative Nate Bell was the first and pledged an additional $200. Quickly, David Couch of Little Rock pledged an additional $200, followed by Triple R Bail Bonds, also with $200, and The Pulse is kicking in $100 to now bring the total to $1,000 for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the persons responsible. If you have any information, please call the Polk County Sheriff’s Department at 479-394-2511.