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Vases taken off graves of veterans

Theft of bronze items has happened multiple times

Posted: July 22, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: July 22, 2012 2:00 a.m.

In a particularly “despicable” act, thieves stole bronze vases from the graves of an estimated 100 war veterans — including those of young servicemen recently buried — at Eternal Valley Memorial Park cemetery, family victims and a company official say.

“Theft from the graves at cemeteries is despicable, but it is especially despicable stealing from the graves of servicemen,” Jessica McDunn, spokeswoman for Eternal Valley owners Dignity Memorial based in Houston, Texas, said Sunday night.

“It’s not fair to them and it’s not fair to their families.”

One of those families affected in the latest spate of vase thefts at the cemetery on Sierra Highway is the family of Army Spc. Rudy A. Acosta of Canyon Country, who was killed last year by an Afghan hired by a security firm to guard American soldiers.

“I call them grave robbers,” said Acosta’s father, Dante.

“They cleaned out pretty much the whole area in the veterans section,” he said Sunday, after having been informed of the theft and then visiting his son’s grave.

“It’s pretty disturbing,” he said.

On March 19, 2011, an Afghan national — recruited by Tundra Security 10 days earlier — opened fire on American troops as they began cleaning their weapons inside the Forward Operating Base Frontenac in Afghanistan.

Acosta and Cpl. Donald R. Mickler Jr., 29, of Ohio, were killed and four others wounded before the gunman was shot dead.

“This is a place where people who served are honored for past wars fought and for recent ones,” Acosta said.

“And this (theft) is a desecration of that place.”

Acosta said he would like cemetery managers to consider installing surveillance cameras powered by solar panels.

Meanwhile, cemetery officials at Eternal Valley are working with detectives at the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station to catch the thieves, McDunn said.

The latest mass theft of solid-bronze 8-inch vases — valued at about $150 each — at the cemetery is the third such incident reported in the span of a year.

“It’s been happening all over,” McDunn said. “Unfortunately, it seems to happen there all too often.

“We try to be vigilant, but cemeteries by their nature are open to the public,” she said.

Thieves are believed to be stealing the vases in order to sell them for scrap.

Similar thefts reported this past year have yet to result in arrests.

On Valentine’s Day in 2011, one man visited the graves of his fiancee and his parents buried at Eternal Valley Memorial Park & Mortuary, only to discover thieves had stolen bronze vases from the graves.

He discovered at the time that bronze vases were noticed missing from more than 15 graves.

In August, at least 300 of the same vases were stolen from more than 100 graves in Eternal Valley’s Rose Garden area.

One of the vases stolen that summer was from the grave of a local boy who died of leukemia five years ago, prompting the boy’s frustrated father to complain to cemetery owners.

Since 2006, Chan Reader has worked diligently to preserve the memory of his son Sean, who was 12 years old when he died of leukemia that year.

But three times in one month, thieves stole the bronze vase from Sean’s headstone at Eternal Valley, Reader said.



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