Vandals Topple 127 Tombstones In Rural Cherokee County

Sunday, October 15th 2000, 12:00 am

By: News On 6

Cemetery vandalism struck the heart of a small rural community Saturday.

Family members can't understand why anyone would viciously destroy more than 120 headstones.

It happened early Saturday morning in the Caney Cemetery in Cherokee County.

The fresh flowers, knocked to the ground, showed their colors for the time being.

The vandals broke several flower vases and toppled 127 tombstones, that's about a third of them in the Caney Cemetery.

“It hurts. It hurts really bad," says Jim McManus, victim.

When the word got out, dozens of families paid a visit. The small cemetery is nestled among the rolling hills about thirty minutes south of Tahlequah, in Cherokee County.

“Usually vandalism only affects one person or one family, this has affected a lot of families," says Cherokee County Sheriff Delena Goss.

"It feels like it’s on a knock on everybody's family out here," says McManus.

The vandals broke two vases on Jim McManus's father's grave. His mother, Dixie, says it's a knock on her husband's honor.

"It's hard to think someone would do something like that," says McManus. “They had to be sick. Something had to be wrong with them."

Investigators have fingerprints taken from beer cans found at the scene. They say it doesn't seem to be racially motivated.

The people in this small community say some of the older headstones, dating back to the 1800's won't be able to be fixed. They've already raised three thousand-one hundred dollars for a reward.

"I figure it will be more than that. I'm hoping 5 or 6 thousand before it is over," says McManus.

Victims say just as much as they want jail time for those responsible, they want the vandals to help in the clean-up, and pay for damaging the memorials honoring their families.

The vandals could be charged with 127 counts of malicious injury to property and trespassing.

Investigators say they do have two suspects.

If you have any information about the crime, you can call the Cherokee County Sheriff's department at (918) 456-2583.

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