Suspects in Custody after Major Vandalism at Tulsa Cemetery

Friday, August 25th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Some of the 93 tombstones knocked down by vandals in the Jewish section of Rose Hill Memorial Park Cemetery. Photos Courtesy: KOTV - The News on Six

Vandalism occurs overnight at Tulsa’s Rose Hill Memorial Park Cemetery. Tulsa police believe it may be a hate crime.

Police were called to the cemetery located at the intersection of Admiral Boulevard and Yale Avenue around 12:15 AM Friday morning.
Firefighters at Station 15 across the street saw someone in the cemetery. When they arrived on the scene, police found dozens of headstones pushed over. According to police, it appears that all of the 93 headstones that were vandalized are Jewish.

Police spotted two men in the cemetery. They captured one man quickly. However, the other man tried to escape, but was also caught. The suspects in custody are identified as 19-year-old Jonathan Duke and 18-year-old Dillon Bell.

Police say the damage is extensive. “It looks like they have pushed over nearly 100 tombstones, seemingly all of those of the Jewish faith, and of which several are broken,” said Rick Bondy, Tulsa Police Department spokesman. “Most of them have chips. They've been torn up in some way.”

Both Duke and Bell were arrested on felony complaints. They could face up to 92 counts of malicious injury to property. In order to repair the damage, police say it will take a six man crew many hours to right each headstone, if the marker is not damaged. Many of the headstones were damaged. Police estimate the damage to exceed $20,000.

Cemetery manager Larry Hutchings said most of the graves were about 70 years old and marked with the Star of David. Some of the stones had foot-size chunks knocked out of them, he said.

Many of the toppled stones were 4- and 5-feet tall, he said.

Hutchings said the cemetery has been occasionally vandalized but not to the same extent.

"We've had some young kids come through and knock over three or four," he said. "But they took entire rows out."

Family members and Jewish clergy came to the cemetery Friday morning to assess the damage, he said.

Stay tuned to The News on Six for further updates on this exclusive story at 5:00, 6:00, and 10:00 PM.

Tulsa police estimate that it will take a six-man crew several hours to right each tombstone not damaged by vandals.