Vandalism at St. Joseph's cemetery

Vandals topple dozens of gravestones in Plymouth cemetery


More than 40 headstones at an historic church cemetery in Plymouth were toppled and broken over the weekend, including limestone tablets dating from the 1870s, some of which are so fragile that they can never be repaired.

Father Terry Rassmussen, pastor at St. Joseph Catholic Church of Plymouth and New Hope, said the vandalism left him shocked, saddened and angry.

"I know people do Halloween pranks, but this was more than a prank," said Rasmussen, who lives next to the picturesque church with its white steeple, built on a hill only a dozen years after the Civil War. "This was such destruction of property and desecration of graves that it's an awful thing."

Plymouth police said on Monday that they don't have any suspects or leads in the case, which caused up to $15,000 in damage and has left church officials trying to notify family members of those buried in the vandalized graves. The church said it would do its best to repair the ones it could.

Rassmussen suspects that the headstones were damaged Friday evening between 9 p.m. and 11 p.m. An outdoor light illuminates the church parking lot and the edge of the cemetery, and he noticed just before going to bed that one or two markers had fallen. That happens occasionally, and he resolved to check the stones first thing in the morning.

On Saturday, he found that several of the oldest headstones, their weathered engravings worn nearly smooth, had been snapped off. Thicker column-shaped markers adorned with stone crosses on top had been pushed down and lay cracked and separated into three or four pieces. Large granite headstones had been tipped off their bases. Pieces of four or five gravestones were thrown into the woods. One stout marker in the shape of a cross, engraved only with "Our Baby Boy," had been yanked from its spot and dragged 25 feet into the high grass.

Comment: Shocking and tragic. Such a beautiful cemetery.

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