Crews begin repairing headstones in time for Jewish holiday

Wednesday, September 27th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

TULSA, Okla. (AP) -- Crews on Tuesday began repairing 93 Jewish headstones that were vandalized last month at a cemetery.

"We're going to reset 24 of them today, and then we'll be back tomorrow and the next day until we get them done," said David Crane of the Tulsa Monument Co.

The hope is that the work will be done by Saturday, which is Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.

"This will allow the congregation to enter the New Year whole and intact," said B'nai Emunah Rabbi Marc Fitzerman, whose congregation owns the plots in the section where the vandalism occurred Aug. 25. "It's been very draining on all of us, and this will help us move forward."

The headstones were temporarily uprighted on their bases, and all the graves were reconsecrated by Fitzerman two days after the vandalism to declare them sacred again.

Nearly all the damaged headstones will be repaired at the cemetery. Crews will smooth the bottoms of the stones and then reseal them to their bases, Crane said. Only a few will have to be replaced.

The headstones, which weigh as much as 1,500 pounds, were pushed over, causing some to chip and split, he said.

Until the replacement stones are ready, three of the four headstones that split will remain at the cemetery, balanced on their bases, Crane said.

The vandalism suspects, Jonathan Brian Duke, 20, and Dillon Garrett Bell, 18, are in the Tulsa Jail. Each has been charged with malicious injury to property, a felony, and 90 misdemeanors, including 89 counts of injuring a gravestone or monument and one count of malicious intimidation and harassment based on religion, ancestry and national origin.

Police investigated the case as a hate crime, and federal authorities are considering pursuing a federal hate-crime charge.