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Vandals, thieves target family-owned cemetery


The Carroll County Sheriff's Office is investigating the theft of five footstones and the vandalism of eight tombstones at a private family cemetery in Westminster, authorities said yesterday.

A resident reported the damage to Deputy Gary Jenkins, who found the tombstones pushed over and broken at the Gist family cemetery on the 100 block of Federal Ann Court. The theft of the footstones also was discovered.

"I am still in shock," said Harriet Zurl, 55, who said about six generations of her family are buried in the gated cemetery, which sits on a half-acre south of Hook Road.

She said there has never been an incident like this at the cemetery, which is never locked. "It was very upsetting. Now I'm very angry," she said.

Zurl said she received a call from an official at the Diamond Hills Community Association, which represents a development adjacent to the cemetery. She said what she saw brought her to tears.

"It looked like a herd of cattle had been there," she said. "They really tore the place up."

She said her family used to own 1,600 acres in the area but sold it in bits and pieces to developers and private owners over the years. The cemetery, she said, has been in the family since 1839 and is protected from development.

Zurl and her husband are the trustees of the Gist Cemetery Association.

The tombstones of her great-grandfather, aunt and uncle were damaged. She said the graves of her grandparents and her father were not disturbed. But among the five footstones that were stolen, one was for a stillborn child who died in the mid-1800s.

"I just don't know how you can do that," she said. "I don't know what they'd want with those footstones."

Zurl said she'd try to replace the stolen footstones and repair the damaged tombstones. She estimated the cost at about $5,000. Some of the older marble and granite ones might be too fragile to restore, she said.

Sheriff's office spokesman Maj. Thomas Long said that possible charges would include malicious destruction of property, criminal trespass, theft and the desecration of a cemetery.

Anyone with information about this crime can call the sheriff's office at 410-386-2900.

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