TRINITY, TX (KTRE) - Trinity County authorities believe three 13-year-old boys are responsible for the Memorial Day weekend vandalism spree that left 135 head stones damaged and well over $100,000 in damage.
According to Trinity Police Chief Steve Jones, "A witness...reported that she saw one black male subject and 2 white male subjects in the cemetery pushing stones around. Officers got here there was nobody around. They couldn't find anybody and she didn't know which way they'd ran. Then later that night it appears they came back and caused more damage."
Jones said his officers were able to lift good fingerprints from some of the damaged headstones. He said his officers are working with the Lufkin Police Department's crime lab to positively identify the juvenile suspects.
"We've taken comparison prints from some of the suspects that we believe did this already," said Jones. They're not cooperating fully at this time but we hope that when those prints come back they have no choice. We'll be picking them up."
If the juvenile suspects are positively identified, they could face felony grave desecration and criminal mischief charges for the mayhem in Trinity's Cedar Grove Cemetery that left many families wondering why someone would do such a thing.
In all, 135 headstones were knocked over and 12 were broken. Jones said some of the broken grave stones were made of white marble, which is irreplaceable.
Agent in charge of Cedar Grove, Walter Willmann said when he saw the destruction, it was heartbreaking.
"This is more than just vandalism," said Willmann. "They're disrespecting the people that are buried here."
A work crew of Trinity County Jail inmates worked to clean up the mess and make the necessary repairs all day Tuesday.
Willmann said if it wasn't for Sheriff Woody Wallace sending half a dozen inmates out to help with the work, the repairs would have cost a minimum of $200 to re-set each headstone.
After word of the vandalism got out, families dropped by Cedar Grove Cemetery to check on their loved ones' grave sites.
Fred Skains, a member of the Cedar Grove Cemetery Board of Directors, and said it's heartbreaking to look at.
"When I saw it yesterday I just had to cry," Skains said. "It was just too much. It just breaks your heart to see someone or some people do this sort of thing, especially on a weekend like this, Memorial Day."
There is no section of the cemetery that escaped unscathed, and authorities said some of the headstones vandalized were more than 100 years old.
The investigation is on-going and authorities are urging anyone with information about the vandalism to call the Trinity Police Department at (936) 594-2505 or the Sheriff's Office at (936) 642-1424.