Dozens of tombstones in a south suburb’s cemetery were toppled or broken over the weekend, an act of vandalism that left the small town feeling “violated” its mayor said.
St. Paul’s Cemetery dates back to around the time of Monee’s founding in the 1880s, and some of the damaged grave markers date back to that era, village officials said.
Police Chief John Cipkar said 44 tombstones were destroyed or toppled over the weekend at the cemetery adjacent to St. Paul’s United Church of Christ. It was the worst act of vandalism at the cemetery in 20 years, he said.
“It’s just such a senseless act of violence that you can’t even begin to understand,” said Pastor Peggy Johnson of St. Paul’s United Church of Christ, founded in 1858.
Mayor Daniel Tovo Sr., who has friends buried at the cemetery, has offered a $500 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for the damage.
“They’re devastated by this – I do believe that the community feels violated,” he said of Monee residents.
St. Paul’s is the only cemetery in town and the damage was done in both old and newer parts. Johnson said church leaders are attempting to assess the damage and notify families whose loved one’s tombstone was toppled or broken.
The vandalism apparently happened sometime between Friday and Saturday afternoon, she said. Vandals also struck the cemetery last year, Johnson said, damaging about 11 headstones.