Fayette County community reacts to cemetery vandalism that desecrated military graves

Kincaid Cemetery vandalism
Kincaid Cemetery vandalism(WVVA)
Published: Feb. 3, 2023 at 5:15 PM EST
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FAYETTE COUNTY, W.Va. (WVVA) - Last week, the Fayette County Sheriff’s Department reached out to their local community, seeking assistance in connection to the vandalism of Kincaid Cemetery.

Sheriff Mike Fridley says it happened around the turn of the New Year.

13 bronze military headstone markers were stolen and other military headstones were smashed to pieces.

Mark Smith, 66, has helped upkeep the Kincaid Cemetery since he was six years old. He says everyone is welcome to pay their respects, visit a loved one or simply take a walk...that was until the vandals struck.

Smith checked on the cemetery around Christmastime. He says he and his wife went to place holiday flowers on some of the graves and at that time he noticed nothing out of place, but a week after New Year’s he saw that all 13 of the cemetery’s bronze military headstones had been stolen and some of those graves, including his father’s, had even been cracked.

“It’s just really a disgrace to think some individuals would come down here just to steal that little bit of bronze and copper...it’s disgusting to the family.”

Smith says the desecration here hurts on two levels: the theft is obvious, but it’s the fact that now these graves sit without a name that generates emotional pain.

“That’s your last memories that you’ll have,” he shared. “It’s the only way you can come and visit ‘em. If you sent somebody down here and told ‘em- they’re looking them up- there’s no name there. They’ll never find the grave.”

Smith says the last few weeks have been a nightmare for his family and the other families impacted. They say they want answers.

The Fayette County Sheriff’s Office is working to find them.

WVVA spoke to Chief Deputy Rod Perdue II. While he couldn’t give any specifics about the ongoing investigation, he did share his reaction to the crime.

“It’s disheartening. It really is ‘cause, you know, those are veterans that... sacrificed for our country mentally, physically. Hopefully, somebody will come forth with information that will help us with this investigation.”

This crime’s impact reaches beyond the border of this cemetery, generating shock and anger from veterans across the county like United States Air Force veteran and current member of Post 149 of the American Legion James Akers.

He says it’s hard to wrap his mind around the motivation for this level of disrespect.

“We can’t imagine someone would do something like this,” he shared. “It would have to be some cowardly act that was done maybe out of enjoyment...”

Smith says, while nothing will ever fill the void left by seeing his father’s grave battered and broken, there is one thing that will help put his mind to rest.

“I hope they [police] catch them.”

That’s exactly what law enforcement plans to do.

The Fayette County Sheriff’s Department is encouraging anyone with information related to this investigation to contact them directly at 304-574-4216 or by calling Crime Stoppers of West Virginia at 304-255-STOP. The department can also be reached through its Facebook page.

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