Thieves Steal From Hundreds of Veteran's Graves

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UPDATED: Friday August 15, 2014 11:22 PM

Special veteran memorials at the Crooksville Cemetery tell stories.

They are stories of those who defended our freedom, stories of those who gave everything for it.

Some of those memorials have a new story to tell. It's one that fellow veterans wish they didn't have to tell.

"There's no if's, and's or but's, it's wrong," said Tom Workman as he described thieves stealing the brass rods from veteran memorials across Perry County.

"The people that served deserve the respect," he said. "The people that are stealing don't deserve any respect."

Workman is a Vietnam veteran and the commander of the VFW Perry County Post 2806.

When 10TV spoke with him Friday evening, he was getting ready to bury a fellow Vietnam veteran and VFW member over the weekend.

The thought of someone stealing from his friend's gravesite leaves Workman with few words.

"It's not right," he said.

Perry County sheriff's deputies arrested Jesse Lang and Tonya Barnes last month on felony theft charges and have identified at least two other suspects. They are still looking for them.

The sheriff's office says the thieves worked their way across Perry County in June and July. They are accused of stealing from at least 15 cemeteries and taking a total of 362 brass rods.

"It's probably one of the most shameful crimes I've investigated as a deputy," said Deputy Adam Newlon.

Newlon says he began investigating the crimes in June with Deputy Brandon Forester.

He says the two put in more than 100 hours of their own free time investigating the case because it meant so much to them.

"This is a very big deal to our agency as well as to the veterans in our county," Newlon said. "Most of us here at this agency have friends and family that are veterans, individuals that have passed away in our own families. We feel that it is a very big deal."

Newlon says a tip from Perry Scrap Yard led to the two arrests.

"They had actually confiscated the rods and gave us information as to the suspects," Newlon said.

Workman hopes the other suspects are caught too.

"It's stupid to risk a jail sentence over something that, in some cases, means a lot to people," he said.

Deputies will continue to investigate the cemetery thefts. If you have any information, contact the Perry County Sheriff's Office at 740-342-4123.

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