WAUSAU, Wis. - Vandals left a path of destruction at two Wausau cemeteries this weekend after they desecrated dozens of tombstones - some more than a century old.
Police were notified Monday morning that tombstones at Pine Grove Cemetery, 1501 Grand Ave., were broken, shattered or knocked from their bases, Wausau Police Capt. Bryan Hilts said. Several tombstones at the adjacent Saint Joseph's Cemetery, 1915 Grand Ave., were also vandalized, he said.
Most of the desecrated graves date back to the 1800s, Pine Grove Cemetery Director Patty Grimm said Monday.
"We're talking about stones that are irreplaceable," Grimm said. "We're just now learning the extent of the damage and starting to contact families, but many of the families are long gone. It's incredibly sad."
Grimm said cemetery officials are compiling a list of the number of tombstones destroyed and names of the families affected, and will share that information with the media and investigators when a list is compiled. Daily Herald Media will publish the list when one is made available.
"Some of the families have moved out of the area," Grimm said. "It won't be easy to locate everyone."
Pine Grove Cemetery is the oldest cemetery in Wausau and is the site of more than 5,000 graves, including some of Wausau's founding residents.
Cemeteries typically see vandalism about once every four to six years, Grimm said; she could not recall precisely when Pine Grove was last victimized, but said it was "a long time ago." Meanwhile, cemetery officials are bracing for the possibility that the vandals could strike again, Grimm said.
"Our fear is, the police tell us that when something like this happens once, it usually happens again about a week later," Grimm said.
Grimm said people in the area should keep their eyes open for anything suspicious, especially during the course of the next week, and should call police if they see anything suspicious.
"As always, we are seeking to work with the public and would appreciate any information that may help us determine who is responsible," Hilts said.
Officials from Saint Joseph's Cemetery could not be reached for comment.
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