City Says At Least 60 Headstones Damaged At Oaklawn Cemetery, Suspect Arrested

Wednesday, March 3rd 2021, 6:10 pm

TULSA, Okla. -

A man is in jail Wednesday after police said he damaged dozens of headstones at Tulsa's Oaklawn Cemetery.  

The damage happened on the opposite side of the cemetery from where a mass grave was found a few months ago and where there is a security camera. Police said when they arrived at the scene, two fire marshals who were nearby already had the suspect in custody.  

Most of the damage is in the southeastern area of the cemetery, impossible to miss in sections 18 and seven.  Some of the headstones in that area are at least 100 years old. 

Several mark very short lives, like two-year-old James Arthur Wages, who died in 1917. Another headstone marks the life of a one-year-old who died in 1913. 

Police arrested Joshua Dean, saying he is the man responsible for breaking headstones, and in some cases, lifting them out of the ground.  

"It's terrible and somebody's gonna have a big job,” Olen Campbell said.  

Olen and his wife Barbara came by Oaklawn Cemetery Wednesday to check on her brother's gravesite after hearing about what happened.  

Her brother Clyde Ray Fisher is buried on the other side of the cemetery and his resting place has no damage.   

"It was in good shape,” Olen said. “Everything was fine and nothing was dumped over right around it." 

For the headstones that were damaged, the city estimates the cost for repairs will be $15-20,000.  

"Very discouraged. Not understanding why somebody would even want to do that,” City of Tulsa Director of Streets and Stormwater Terry Ball said.  

Ball said at this point, they believe at least 60 headstones were damaged last night. Dean’s arrest report said officers counted about 97 damaged headstones, but the city said there were already some headstones in the cemetery that needed repairs not due to vandalism.  

Ball said the suspect must have used a great amount of effort to cause such widespread damage.  

"Some of them are small, probably less than 30-40 pounds. But there's some in there that are probably a couple hundred pounds, that he pushed over, at minimum. They're fairly large,” he said. 

Dean was arrested on a felony complaint for malicious injury to property, which is a stronger charge than vandalism. His arrest report did not say whether he had a motive, but said he told police he was looking for a place to sleep.