ITALY — Vandals hit the Italy Cemetery recently leaving destruction and devastation in their tracks. Many historic tombstones in Section 5 and Section 6 were damaged, some beyond repair.

Susan Harris discovered the damage to her father’s memorial. The memorial was placed there by the cemetery association in recognition of the many hours her father, Tollie Wolaver, had spent taking care of the cemetery.

She was outraged and angry when she saw the disrespect paid to her family, especially her father.

“The recent damage to the cemetery cannot possibly be measured in dollars. Those tombstones and the grounds represent the memory of residents and family members that helped build this community and the families, many of whom still reside here today,” Harris said. “An area built in the memory of my late father was one of those areas impacted by this senseless act of vandalism. I only hope that someday whoever did this will understand the severity on their senseless acts. Our family as well as many others in this community is saddened.”

Harris reported the crime to the Italy Police Department on Aug.21 and they began an immediate investigation. At 8:30 a.m. on Aug. 22, the juvenile suspect in the case turned themself in at the police department. It is a state jail felony if the damage or destruction is inflicted on a place of worship or human burial.

“We know that this is a very emotional type of crime,” said Italy Police Chief Diron Hill. “It affects not only families but the entire Italy community. That is why the penalties are enhanced.”

Hill said he recognizes that as a police department, Italy police must upgrade their response to this type of crime. Because of this, the officers have stepped up patrols in the cemetery. The department is also researching ways to offer rewards for this type of crime from their department’s funding.

“I am very proud to say that because of the diligence of the Italy Police Department, we were able to solve this crime in less than 24 hours,” Hill said. “We will be meeting with the cemetery board in the near future to discuss further steps to secure the cemetery.”