No Felony for Cemetery Vandalism

9-13-04 - A controversy over criminal charges surrounding cemetery vandalism in Healdton appears to be over. Monday night, District Attorney Mitch Sperry spoke to dozens of concerned citizens, explaining why he could only file misdemeanor charges against the 7 suspects.

The story made headlines two weeks ago, when some 82 headstones were either damaged or destroyed. Police obtained a full confession from the man they say was involved, and also arrested 6 juveniles who played a part in the crime.

Monday night, Sperry held a town hall meeting in Healdton to explain his reasons. He says due to state law, Mitch Sperry can only charge them with malicious injury to property regarding gravesites, which is not a felony. If they had disrupted physical remains, Sperry says it would be a different case.

Around 50 people showed up at the meeting, and although some angrily spoke out, they appeared to accept Sperry's explanation. The meeting lasted about an hour. Many residents now hope the state statute's can be changed.

The misdemeanor charge carries a maximum sentence of six months in jail. It’s likely the vandals will have to pay for repairs to the cemetery.