Teens could face felonies in cemetery vandalism
The Milton Police Department is urging next of kin or owners of the damaged headstones at the city-owned cemetery at 123 N. Janesville St. to identify themselves as victims in the vandalism.
Police say it's the only way authorities can pursue felony charges of criminal damage to religious property.
Two teens, a 16-year-old Milton boy and a 16-year-old Janesville boy, were arrested Tuesday in connection with the vandalism overnight May 25 that left 25 headstones toppled and 15 more smashed at the cemetery. Police said a series of anonymous tips linked the teens to the vandalism.
Milton police said they believe the teens acted alone in the vandalism. Police believe the teens fled the area for a few days after they learned police had launched an investigation, but they returned late Tuesday.
Police reportedly found one of the teens at home. The other was at a gas station in Milton.
The teens were released to their parents, and charges of disorderly conduct were forwarded to Rock County juvenile authorities, police said. No court dates have been set.
Authorities say they can't pursue felony charges until owners of the stones step forward.
The headstones belong to the families of those buried in the cemetery, and that makes the owners the victims of the vandalism, not the city, police said.
On Wednesday, Milton police Lt. John Conger said no one had claimed any of the broken stones. He compared the situation to someone getting punched in the face and silently enduring it.
"We need families of victims to come forward in this case," Conger said. "We're hamstrung until we have actual victims come forward."
City crews already have re-set most of the toppled stones, but a handful of broken stones still need to be glued together or replaced. Some of the headstones date to the 1850s, and officials say it could cost at least $60,000 to fix or replace all of them.
The city's public works department forwarded an invoice for $2,500 for repair work so far, according to Milton police records.
City Administrator Jerry Schuetz said the city re-set the toppled stones quickly "to bring the cemetery back to a more peaceful setting," but wasn't clear how the city would handle repairs or replacement of the remaining broken stones.
Schuetz said the city's insurance carrier has indicated the headstones' owners or their next of kin are responsible for seeking restitution for repairs or replacement.
Schuetz said the city would pursue restitution for repair work. He said officials have not discussed how the city would pay for repairs otherwise or whether the headstones' owners could be billed for work.
The Milton Police Department has identified some of gravestones damaged or toppled in a May 25 vandalism at the Milton Cemetery, 123 N. Janesville St., Milton. Two local teens were arrested this week in connection with the vandalism. Police say felony charges are possible but only if families whose headstones were affected come forward and identify themselves.
Police encouraged families to call the police department at (608) 757-2244.
Toppled/damaged stones include:
-- Babcock family marker
-- Bassett family marker
-- Frank Blaisdell, 1932
-- Bea. B.D. Burdick, 1885
-- Buton, 1866
-- Cary family stone
-- Clark/Davis family marker
-- Clarke family marker
-- Conway family marker
-- S.H. Coon
-- John Craig, 1851
-- Ezra F. Davy, 1914
-- Gray family marker
-- George Kelly
-- George Lamphere, 1924
-- Loofboro, 1887
-- Benjamin Maltry
-- Nathan/Susan Maxon, 1855/1858
-- Friderick Michael, 1917
-- Rood family marker
-- Alder Simon, 1900
-- Josephine M. Sowle
-- Stockman, 1889
-- Stockman family marker
-- Swinton, 1901
-- Walker family marker
-- Joseph Waterman, 1865
-- White family marker
-- Will family marker